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Denmark’s former immigration minister resigns as deputy party head

Denmark's controversial former immigration minister Inger Støjberg has resigned as deputy chairman of the opposition Liberal Party after the party's leader said he might support a court case against her.

Denmark's former immigration minister resigns as deputy party head
Liberal Party leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen and former immigration minister Inger Støjberg in parliament in December 2019. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix
In a statement posted on her Facebook page, Støjberg said that the request for her to step down had come as “a surprise”, adding that the party's leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen had insisted on her resignation. 
 
“A number of members of the executive committee suggested that I go on leave, but it was imperative for Jakob that I should resign completely as deputy chair now,” she wrote. 
 
“I understand that it is, among other things, due to his lack of confidence in my position on a number of political matters.” 
 
“It comes as a surprise that it ended up here…I would have had it come out differently. But that's how it is,” she said. 
 
“Now the Liberal Party has to find a new deputy chair. This is how it goes sometimes in politics.”  
 
 
 
Ellemann-Jensen wrote on his Facebook page that he was “incredibly sorry” that his party would now have to look for a new deputy chair. 
 
But he said that after Støjberg openly disagreed with his judgement that the party should back a court case against, her, he had no choice. 
 
“This is not the first time Inger has gone against the line that the Liberal Party and I have set,” he said. After many long conversations with Inger, I, as leader of the Liberal Party, have therefore seen no other option than asking Inger to resign as deputy chair. I do that with a very heavy heart.” 
 
 
 
The friction between Støjberg and Ellemann-Jensen, already apparent at the time Støjberg won the leadership in the spring, came to a head over Christmas after a report from the Instruction Commission concluded that Støjberg had misled parliament about an illegal order she gave to separate certain married couples at asylum centres. 
 
Ellemann-Jensen on Sunday told the Jyllands-Posten newspaper that his party would support a case against Støjberg in the Court of Impeachment of the Realm if the Commission concluded there were grounds for one. 
 
The Executive Committee, which is part of the Liberal Party's main board, said on Tuesday night that cooperation between the two leaders had 'irreparably broken down'.
 
“We must state that there have been difficulties surrounding the cooperation between the Liberal Party's chairman and the Liberal Party's deputy chairman for a long time, and there is no longer any trust between the two,” it said in  statement. 
 
“A large majority in the Executive Committee supports the Liberal Party's chairman and has decided to ask Inger Støjberg to resign as deputy chairman of the party, and subsequently she has announced that she is resigning.” 
 
Støjberg's hard line as immigration minister helped the Liberal Party limit the ability of the populist Danish People's Party to outflank it to the right on the the issue while it was in government. 
 
But it is less useful now, when the Danish People's Party has lost much of its power, and immigration is now no longer the most pressing issue in Danish politics. 
 

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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.

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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.

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