‘Unacceptable for people’: Danish asylum centre slammed in anti-torture report

'Unacceptable for people': Danish asylum centre slammed in anti-torture report
File photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix
The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture published on Tuesday a highly critical report on a detention centre in Denmark.

The committee called the centre at Ellebæk in North Zealand “unacceptable for people”.

The Strasbourg-based European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) is the anti-torture committee of the Council of Europe.

The report is based on visits to Ellebæk and other detention centres including Nykøbing Falster Arrest.

Both facilities house migrants who are under arrest based on Denmark’s immigration laws (Udlændingeloven), but not for committing crimes.

In the report on Denmark, which was published on Tuesday, the CPT calls Ellebæk one of the worst facilities of its kind in Europe.

“In our view it is unacceptable to keep people in (prison)-like conditions and furthermore with (poor) sanitary conditions and bad hygiene,” Hans Wolff, the leader of a delegation which visited Ellebæk in April last year, told TV2.

“There are a lot of reasons why Denmark is proud of its human rights (record), but when you come to these places and you find such appalling conditions then one might question either the capability of Denmark to do it better or maybe the will of Denmark to do it in such a bad way,” he added.

“It is not compatible with human rights to keep people under such bad conditions in immigration detention centres,” Wolff also said.

Migrants at the two centres are not suspected or convicted of any crime, the report stresses.

One specific criticism in the report is of only 30 minutes’ daily access to outside exercise provided at Ellebæk.

Another involved punishment for use of mobile telephones.

Meanwhile, the use of restrainment was also criticized as potential abuse.

“The Committee expresses its serious misgivings that the application of the prison rules led to a situation where detained migrants who were found in possession of a mobile phone had to be punished by law with at least 15 days of solitary confinement,” the report states.

“Moreover, due to the lack of rip-proof clothing, detained migrants at risk of suicide were sometimes placed entirely naked in an observation room. The CPT considers that such a practice could amount to degrading treatment,” it also notes.

Ellebæk is used to place rejected asylum seekers who refuse to comply with their deportation. This may be due to their fears of persecution or because no repatriation arrangement exists between Denmark and their home country.

Danish authorities are not obliged to act upon the criticism, but CPT has nevertheless called for conditions to be changed or the migrants to be accommodated elsewhere.

The committee has asked Denmark to provide a response to the recommendations within three months.

Denmark’s immigration law, Udlændingeloven, provides for what is termed as “motivational detention” (“motivationsfremmende frihedsberøvelse”) of rejected asylum seekers in such cases.

“I find such measures [detention, ed.] necessary in relation to ensuring an efficient deportation system,” immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye told the parliamentary immigration committee in a written response last year.

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


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