Danish parliament set to expel prison-bound ex-immigration minister

A majority in the Danish parliament is expected to vote to fire former immigration minister Inger Støjberg after she was found guilty of breaching ministerial law by a special impeachment court.

Former immigration minister Inger Støjberg was sentenced to 60 days in prison by a Danish impeachment court on December 13th.
Former immigration minister Inger Støjberg was sentenced to 60 days in prison by a Danish impeachment court on December 13th.Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Following the verdict given by a rare impeachment court on Monday, parliamentary parties met to clarify their positions on whether they think Støjberg is “worthy” (værdig in Danish) of continuing as a lawmaker, effectively deciding whether to eject her from parliament.

The impeachment court found that Støjberg intentionally acted against the law in 2016 when she ordered that refugee couples be separated without individual case assessment if one of the partners is under the age of 18.

By convention, politicians with criminal convictions are excluded from being members of parliament but there is no exact precedence in Støjberg’s case because she was found guilty by a special impeachment court, rather than in a regular criminal trial.

If the parliament decides to remove her from her seat, she is free to run and be re-elected at the next election.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why reaction to Støjberg verdict is important for democracy in Denmark

Støjberg’s former party the Liberals (Venstre) announced on Wednesday it had decided to declare her no longer worthy to be a parliamentary representative.

Two left wing parties, the Socialist People’s Party and the Red Green Alliance, made similar announcements soon after.

“It is a unanimous (Liberal) parliamentary group that believes it is incompatible with the position of member of parliament to have received an unconditional prison sentence,” Liberal group chairperson Karsten Lauritzen said on Wednesday.

“You cannot imagine that you can sit in prison and serve that sentence while (also) sitting in parliament,” Lauritzen said.

The centre-left Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party said on Tuesday it supports firing Støjberg as a lawmaker, as did a party on the right in the form of the libertarian Liberal Alliance.

The governing Social Democrats and the Conservative party are yet to confirm their positions. The Danish People’s Party and Nye Borgerlige (New Right) want to allow Støjberg to continue.

Wednesday’s announcements mean a majority is now in favour of firing the former minister.

Støjberg maintains she does not regret issuing the illegal directive despite her eventual conviction for it.

“I hope everyone would have done as I did and I will take my sentence without bowing my head,” she said.

A vote on her suitability for parliament is expected to take place on December 21st.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Convicted ex-immigration minister Støjberg vows to return from parliamentary expulsion

Denmark's parliament on Tuesday voted to expel former migration minister Inger Støjberg, who was convicted last week of violating migrants' rights by separating asylum-seeking couples.

A majority in the Danish parliament on December 21st voted to fire convicted ex-minister Inger Støjberg from the chamber.
A majority in the Danish parliament on December 21st voted to fire convicted ex-minister Inger Støjberg from the chamber. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Following a lengthy debate, 98 members voted for her immediate expulsion and 18 against, making her the first parliamentarian to be kicked out in 30 years.

Støjberg, who was handed a 60-day jail term by a special court last week though is unlikely to serve any time in prison, had to leave the chamber immediately, waving goodbye as she stepped away.

“I would rather be voted out by my colleagues here in parliament for trying to protect some girls than voted out by the Danish people for turning a blind eye,” she told reporters after exiting the chamber.

However, she said she was open to returning to politics. She is free to return to parliament should she be given a mandate by voters at the next election, scheduled to take place in 2023.

“I don’t think you should expect this to be the last word from me,” she told reporters.

Her order to separate asylum-seeking couples when the woman was under 18 with no individual examination of the cases was found to have violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

READ ALSO: Danish ex-minister gets prison sentence in impeachment trial

In 2016, the government separated 23 couples on Støjberg’s orders without examining their cases following instructions from the minister. 

The policy was found to be unlawful because the action was taken without allowing for exceptions or consideration of individual circumstances.

The couples, most of whom had only a small age difference, were then placed in different centres while their cases were reviewed.

In seven of the cases, staff at the centres reported that the separated asylum seekers experienced suicidal thoughts or attempted to kill themselves.

Most political parties were in favour of removing the 48-year-old self-styled champion of “Danish values”, a hugely popular politician who served as minister from 2015 to 2019.

“It is not compatible with being a member of the parliament to receive a prison sentence,” said Karsten Lauritzen, parliamentary chairman of the Liberals (Venstre), the party Støjberg left in February.

Since 1953, only four members of parliament have been excluded.

Støjberg has insisted the policy was designed to fight against forced marriages and said after her trial that she was “being punished for trying to protect the girls”, while not commenting on the similar ages of most of the couples.

As minister, Støjberg was at the forefront as Denmark’ centre-right government, propped up by the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (DF), tightened restrictive migration policies from 2015-2019.

She passed a law allowing for migrants’ assets to be confiscated to finance their care in Denmark and boasted of having passed more than 110 amendments restricting the rights of foreigners.

She also published a picture of herself with a cake to celebrate the passing of a 50th law curbing immigrationcalled for the public to report pizzerias where staff did not speak Danish; and told a false story about a daycare banning pork from children’s lunches.

Conversely, she was the architect of an apprenticeship system which was praised by companies for helping them bring refugees onto Denmark’s labour market.

Since leaving government and the Liberal party, she has echoed former US president Donald Trump by using the phrase “drain the swamp” when addressing a demonstration against the current government.

Despite the election of the Social Democrats to power two years ago, the Scandinavian country still has one of the most restrictive migration policies in Europe.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why reaction to Støjberg verdict is important for democracy in Denmark