Denmark’s immigration minister faces new scrutiny over illegal asylum directive

Denmark's immigration minister faces new scrutiny over illegal asylum directive
Inger Støjberg. File photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix
Minister for Immigration and Integration Inger Støjberg has been summoned to an extraordinary parliamentary hearing (hastesamråd) over a directive to separate married asylum seekers under the age of 18 from their partners.

All opposition parties have called for Støjberg to face questions, after the publication of a 2016 email exchange appeared to shed new light on explanations previously given by the minister over an asylum directive that was later found to be illegal, newspaper Information reports.

On Thursday, Information published an email exchange in which former Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen) director Henrik Grunnet appears to write that the authority was advised to separate all asylum seeker couples whereby one partner was under 18 years of age.

The authority was not advised of any possible exceptions to that instruction, according to the email exchange.

“The meeting I attended in the ministry left no doubt as to her [Støjberg, ed.] position on this issue — regardless of the (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child, if the pair have children,” Grunnet wrote in the February 10th, 2016 email.

Grunnet was writing in response to a previous email in the chain which states that the immigration ministry's message in an upcoming press statement would be that “no minors under the age of 18 will be allowed to live with their spouse”.

The subject of the email is “Re: Støjberg: NO child bride may live with spouse”.

That is in conflict with explanations previously given by Støjberg over the 2016 directive.

During parliamentary hearings in 2017, Støjberg said that a press statement that did not provide for individual case assessments or consultations with affected parties was mistakenly used as a directive.

“In relation to individual assessment being undertaken prior to separation of the couple, [the law] was [upheld]. Regarding consultations, it was not. Consultations did not begin until April 28th (2016),” Støjberg said during a parliamentary consultation on June 23rd, 2017.

The original directive given in early 2016 to separate the relevant couples which was found by parliament’s ombudsman to be illegal, because it did not make clear the requirement for case-by-case assessment.

Both Danish and international law states that all cases must be assessed individually, and all parties in individual cases must be consulted before couples are forcibly separated.

Couples were illegally separated in 2016 as a result of the directive.

“My best assessment is that Inger Støjberg has not told the truth,” Social Democrat immigration spokesperson Mattias Tesfaye told Information on Friday as opposition parties demanded the emergency hearing, which they hope will take place during the week commencing February 18th.

The new reports relating to the directive have also prompted renewed action from the parliamentary ombudsman, who has asked Støjberg’s ministry to confirm the veracity of the email exchange and to submit a copy for further examination.

The ombudsman also wants to know why the email exchange was not submitted during the original assessment of the 2016 directive, and whether the ministry has further comment, DR writes.