UN concerned over Denmark’s plan to banish foreign convicts to deserted island

The United Nations’ human rights chief has voiced her concern over Denmark’s plan to place foreign nationals convicted of crimes and sentenced to deportation on a deserted island.

UN concerned over Denmark’s plan to banish foreign convicts to deserted island
Lindholm. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Foreign nationals convicted of crimes and slated for deportation under the terms of their sentences will be held at a facility on Lindholm, a seven-hectare island in Stege Bay between the larger islands of Møn and Zealand.

The facility is provided for in the budget agreement reached last week between the conservative coalition government and anti-immigration ally the Danish People's Party (DF).

“I have serious concerns with this plan and we will monitor it and discuss it … with the government,” UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said to journalists in Geneva, Reuters reports.

“We’ve seen the negative impact of such policies of isolation, and (they) should not replicate these policies. Because depriving them of their liberty, isolating them, and stigmatising them will only increase their vulnerability,” she added.

Støjberg dismissed the comments made by Bachelet.

“I’m quite impressed that you can sit in New York and comment on a deportation centre when not a single shovel has yet touched the ground, and when we have clearly said that we will stay within the conventions we are signed up to,” Støjberg said in Brussels on Thursday.

The Danish minister also responded to Bachelet’s suggestion that individuals could be stigmatised by the policy by saying that persons moved to the island will have “stigmatised themselves”.

Living conditions for those accommodated at the centre will be no different from the existing deportation centre at Kærshovedgård in Jutland, other than the island location, she said.

READ ALSO: The middle of nowhere: Inside Denmark's Kærshovedgård deportation camp

The Lindholm facility will be used to house people with so-called ‘tolerated stay' (tålt ophold) status, who do not have permission to reside in Denmark but cannot be deported, and rejected asylum seekers who have committed certain crimes.

The Danish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalforsorgen) will be responsible for the operation of the facility. Police will be present at all times and detention facilities will be provided for individuals placed under arrest to be held while they await further transportation.

Lindholm is currently used by the Technical University of Denmark's (DTU) Veterinary Institute, which carries out research into viruses affecting cattle and swine. The research is carried out on the uninhabited island due to precautions against potential contagion.

One ferry travelling to the island is named Virus.

DTU's researchers will leave the facility to make way for its new function, with the new centre to be brought into operation over several phases to be completed by 2021.

Anders Ladekarl, general secretary of the Danish Red Cross, has expressed his dismay at the plan.

“I miss humanity this evening. I know it’s there. We just have to find it,” Ladekarl tweeted on Friday evening.

READ ALSO: Denmark to banish foreign convicted criminals to deserted island


Denmark scraps plan for Langeland expulsion centre

The government late on Tuesday announced it will not go ahead with plans to open a so-called departure or expulsion centre on Langeland, in the face of fierce opposition in parliament and from the island's local community.

Denmark scraps plan for Langeland expulsion centre
Langelændere (people from Langeland) demonstrate on Tuesday against the now-scrapped plans for a departure centre on their island. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Proposed last week, the centre would have housed people with ‘tolerated stay’ (tålt ophold) status, who do not have permission to reside in Denmark but cannot be deported by force. The planned facility was for around 130 accommodate foreign nationals with criminal records who have served their sentences but are awaiting deportation.

The persons who would have been moved to the centre will therefore remain for the time being at a similar facility at Kærshovedgård in Jutland. That centre also houses people who have not committed crimes but have no legal right to stay in Denmark, for example due to a rejected asylum claim.


Opposition parties opposed the Langeland plan following its announcement last week, calling for the centre to be located more remotely. Langeland residents also resisted it, both during a visit to the island last week by immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye and in a demonstration at the Christiansborg parliament on Tuesday.

The centre-left Socialist People’s Party (SF), which is the party of Langeland’s mayor, also said it would block the plan, leaving the minority government without the parliamentary majority needed to push it through.

“It is very obvious that there’s a majority in parliament which is against the establishment of a new departure centre on Langeland,” Tesfaye told broadcaster DR on Tuesday evening.

“That’s a shame in my view, but I have also said from the start that I cannot not conjure up (the centre) against a majority in parliament, after all,” he added.

Cancellation of the plan means that the “status quo” of existing expulsion centres will continue, the minister confirmed.

As such the 130 persons who would have been moved to Langeland will now remain at the Kærshovedgård centre.

In a statement, Tesfaye said that he would welcome suggestions from the other parties for alternative locations.

“You have to say that the situation has changed. We are now in a situation in which parliament wants influence (over the issue),” he told DR.

“If you take control over an issue, you also take responsibility,” he added.

Since winning the election in 2019, the Social Democratic government has generally worked with right-wing parties to pass laws related to immigration, rather than its established allies on the left, the so-called ‘red bloc’.