Former minister ‘misled’ Danish parliament in scandal over illegal asylum directive

Former minister 'misled' Danish parliament in scandal over illegal asylum directive
Former immigration minister Inger Støjberg. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
The former minister of immigration and integration, Inger Støjberg, misled parliament after she issued an illegal order to separate certain married couples at asylum centres, an official enquiry has found.

The partial conclusions of the so-called Instrukskommission (Directive Commission) were published on Monday and state that parliament was given “an incorrect or misleading description of the course of events which the commission has established”.

The enquiry relates to Støjberg’s illegal 2016 order to separate all married couples at Danish asylum centres if one of the couple was under the age of 18.

The directive ordered authorities to forcibly separate married couples given asylum in Denmark without individual case assessment, provided one of the couple was under 18 years old.

The order was later found to be illegal by parliament's ombudsman, since it did not provide for individual case assessments or consultations with affected parties. Støjberg faced a series of testing parliamentary hearings over it in 2017.

“The Commission has found that the description of the administration which took place in the immigration service based on the directive – namely as far as the administration is concerned, in January and February and part of March 2016, when most of the couples were separated – was incorrect,” the commission summary states.

READ ALSO: Syrian couple may start legal proceedings over illegal Støjberg directive 

“However, the Commission has not found sufficient basis to certify that Inger Støjberg, at the times she described this administration, was aware that the description was incorrect,” it continues.

A further conclusion of the report is that the former minister, during the parliamentary hearings, “gave a different impression of the directive as it was communicated to the (immigration) service than was the case (in reality)”.

Støjberg is also criticised by the enquiry for giving a “misleading” account of the impact of the directive on affected refugees in Denmark.

“The Commission has further found that Inger Støjberg’s reference to four girls who were ‘rescued’ by the change in practice was misleading and contributed to a representation of the effects of the scheme which were not supported by the circumstances in the (personal) cases,” it states.

Officials working under the auspices of Støjberg’s ministry played a key part in interviews conducted by the Commission. A full conclusion as to the level of culpability of ministry officials is expected next year, Ritzau writes.

The Commission is not tasked with providing a verdict in the investigation. Parliament can decide to bring a case against Støjberg based on the summary provided by the enquiry, however.

Støjberg, now the deputy leader of the Venstre (Liberal) party in opposition, has, since the scandal broke, sought to characterise the illegal directive as an attempt to rescue child brides from forced marriages with much older husbands. But that in itself is not a faithful characterisation, as media reports involving affected couples have demonstrated.

She has used unrelated photos of arranged marriages in social media posts about the enquiry, commentators have observed. The Twitter post below compares a photo of one of the couples separated by the illegal order with a photo used by Støjberg on social media, which uses a cover from a book about child brides.

The former minister could avoid consequences from within her own party regardless of the parliamentary outcome, according to an analyst.

“If this had been any other party, it would probably have resulted in her having to step down. But Inger Støjberg has taken the Liberals hostage on this issue,” Jarl Cordua, a Liberal party member and political commentator told Ritzau.

“Many people just don’t care what conclusions the Commission comes out with. For them, this case is about child brides and not a lot elsen” Cordua added.

The party would now have to choose between “calm in the ranks or the rule of law”, he added.

On Facebook, Støjberg wrote on Monday that the summary proved she “did not (knowingly) issue an illegal directive”, but recognised “mistakes” had been made.


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