New Danish government to scrap plans for ‘deserted island’ deportation facility

Plans to accommodate ‘unwanted’ migrants on Lindholm, an uninhabited Danish island, are to be scrapped by Mette Frederiksen’s incoming government.

New Danish government to scrap plans for 'deserted island' deportation facility
Lindholm. File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The outgoing coalition led by Lars Løkke Rasmussen reached a deal late last year to place up to 125 rejected asylum seekers and migrants with criminal records in the process of being deported on the island.

But the island will no longer be used for the facility, according to details of the agreement announced late last night between Frederiksen and left-wing support parties, as the new Social Democrat-led minority government was confirmed.

Neither will the convicted foreign nationals remain at Kærshovedgård, a facility in central Jutland where they currently live alongside rejected asylum seekers who have not committed any crimes. Businesses and members of the public in the area near Kærshovedgård have expressed feelings of insecurity, with one incident of assault and several of petty theft reported.

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

As such, a new plan must be formed for how the migrants will be accommodated.

The new government will also place families at an alternative location to Sjælsmark, a facility for rejected asylum seekers which has been criticized by the Danish Red Cross. The NGO has warned it could damage children’s mental well-being.

“These are rejected asylum seekers who currently live next door to a shooting range. We can do better,” Frederiksen said of Sjælsmark after the government agreement was announced.

The agreement states that the new departure for families will “be established in accordance with recommendations from the Red Cross and the Ombudsman report regarding the conditions at Sjælsmark.”

Additionally, Denmark will resume accepting refugees under the UN's quota system, something it has not done since 2016.

The number which will be accepted is yet to be specified, but UN quota refugees will be taken in during 2019 and 2020, Social Liberal leader Morten Østergaard said to press following the announcement of the agreement.

Although some concessions have been made regarding refugees, Frederiksen reiterated her promise to broadly continue the hardline approach to immigration of her predecessor and said the new agreement achieves this.

The so-called “paradigm shift”, a new approach to asylum which focuses on returning refugees to their source countries once this is deemed possible, rather than integrating them, will be retained.

A bill to this end was passed by Rasmussen’s government earlier this year, with the Social Democrats voting in favour.

READ ALSO: Denmark's parliament passes 'paradigm change' asylum bill

“We are still focused on repatriation and temporary asylum. When you are a refugee and come to Denmark, you can be granted our protection. But when there’s peace, you must go home,” Frederiksen said.

Rules for refugees who are in employment in Denmark may be eased, however.

“We have seen examples of refugees losing their right to residency even though they are working. We are therefore now making it possible for a refugee to stay in Denmark provided they have a job,” Frederiksen said.

“That will require two years with the same employer and that the employer wishes to retain the person in question,” she said.

READ ALSO: Frederiksen to become Denmark's youngest PM after left-wing parties reach deal

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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.