Danish party leader donates funding to refugee children after election failure

Klaus Riskær Pedersen, whose short-lived political party failed to gain enough votes to enter parliament at this month’s general election, has pledged 250,000 kroner of state funding to refugee children.

Danish party leader donates funding to refugee children after election failure
Klaus Riskær Pedersen at the Danish Red Cross. Photo: Martin Sylvest / Ritzau Scanpix

Riskær’s party – which has the same name as its founder – will give the money to help children at the Sjælsmark facility for rejected asylum seekers.

Sjælsmark, a so-called departure centre, has been the subject of controversy with the Danish Red Cross warning it could damage children’s mental well-being and politicians calling for families to be allowed to live elsewhere while awaiting deportation.

Riskær confirmed that his party would donate 250,000 kroner in 2020 to help improve conditions for children who live at the centre, following a meeting with the Red Cross.

All political parties who qualify to run in elections automatically receive funding, known in Danish as partistøtte (party support) from the state.

“There are 132 children at Sjælsmark and we have spoken with the Red Cross about what their needs are. And that is, to get them out of the centre as much as possible,” Riskær said.

“The Red Cross does not have the budget to send them to the cinema or to Lalandia [family holiday resort, ed.] so we have agreed that a couple of thousand kroner per head is a good place to start, so the children can get out and take part in some leisure activities,” he added.

A total of 29,600 people voted for Riskær’s party, which ran on promises to cut taxes, at the general election on June 5th. Riskær consequently said he would leave Danish politics.

The following day, the party announced it would continue as a grass roots movement, however.

By virtue of having qualified for the election through the system of voter declarations, the group founded by Riskær now qualifies for just under one million kroner annually in state funding.

READ ALSO: Danish politicians want expedited rule change to close loophole for new parties

But it will not run in another election, it has also confirmed.

Political parties can use the state funding however they like, including for political work not conducted by the party itself, according to the Danish interior ministry.

The Klaus Riskær Pedersen party also campaigned prior to the election for better conditions at Sjælsmark.

“Our assessment is that this is political work. This is how our voters expect us to help children at Sjælsmark. This is a key part of our programme and was so during the election,” Riskær said.

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Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

Denmark now aims to work with other EU countries to transfer asylum seekers to centres outside Europe and has suspended talks with Rwanda as it no longer plans to go it alone, its migration minister said on Wednesday.

Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

The Scandinavian country’s plans, first announced by the previous Social Democratic government, called for people seeking asylum in Denmark to be transferred to reception centres outside the European Union while their requests were processed.

A law adopted in June 2021 did not specify which country would host the centre, but said asylum seekers should stay there even after they were granted refugee status.

Discussions were launched with Rwanda and other countries, but they have now been suspended since the installation of a new Danish left-right government in December headed by the Social Democrats.

“We are not holding any negotiations at the moment about the establishment of a Danish reception centre in Rwanda”, Migration and Integration Minister Kaare Dybvad told daily Altinget.

“This is a new government. We still have the same ambition, but we have a different process”, he added. “The new government’s programme calls for the establishment of a reception centre outside Europe “in cooperation with the EU or a number of other countries”.

The change is an about-face for the Social Democrats, which had until now rejected any European collaboration, judging it slow and thorny.

“While the wider approach also makes sense to us, [Denmark’s change of heart] is precisely because there has been movement on the issue among many European countries”, Dybvad said. “There are many now pushing for a stricter asylum policy in Europe”, he said.


Inger Støjberg, leader of the Denmark Democrats said on Facebook that she was “honestly disgusted” by the government’s decision to delay plans for a reception centre in Rwanda, pointing out that Kaare Dybvad had said during the election campaign that a deal would be done with Rwanda within a year. 

“Call us old-fashioned, but we say the same thing both before and after an election. We stand firm on a strict immigration policy. The Social Democrats, Liberals and Moderates clearly do not,” she said. 

Lars Boje Mathiesen from the New Right Party accused the government of perpetrating a “deadly fraud” on the Danish people. 

“It is said in Christiansborg that it is paused. But we all know what that means,” he wrote on Facebook, accusing Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen of “empty words” in the run-up to the election. 

In the face of this reaction, Dybvad told the Ritzau newswire that although talks with Rwanda were not happening at present, the government had not given up on a deal with the African nation. He also said that he was confident that asylum reception centres outside of the EU would be a reality within five years.

EU interior ministers are meeting in Stockholm this week to discuss asylum reform. Those talks are expected to focus on how to speed up the process of returning undocumented migrants to their country of origin in cases where their asylum bid fails.

Denmark’s immigration policy has been influenced by the far-right for more than 20 years. Even Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, the head of the Social Democrats, has pursued a “zero refugee” policy since coming to power in 2019.

Copenhagen has over the years implemented a slew of initiatives to discourage migrants and made Danish citizenship harder to obtain. In 2020, it became the only country in Europe to withdraw residency permits from Syrians from Damascus, judging that the situation there was now safe enough for them to return.