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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

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POLITICS

Danish economists say abolition of Great Prayer Day is ‘not necessary’

Leading economists in Denmark say that scrapping the Great Prayer Day holiday is not a necessary measure and that the potential economic benefits for the state are dubious.

Danish economists say abolition of Great Prayer Day is ‘not necessary’

Three economists writing in a column in political media Altinget said there was “nothing necessary” about the plan to scrap Great prayer Day.

“Is it better, then, to cancel the government’s planned tax cuts, to cut public spending or to use the opposition’s alternative proposal?”, write the three economists: Ulrik Beck, senior economist with thinktank Kraka; and Michael Svarer and Hans Jørgen Whitta-Jacobsen, professors in economics at Aarhus and Aalborg universities respectively and both former members of the Danish Economic Councils.

The three economists go on to write that the answer to the question comes down to preferences and priorities.

They state that an opposition plan to raise an annual three billion kroner, the amount the government says the Finance Ministry will raise by scrapping Great Prayer Day, is “a fraction better”.

The three governing parties – the Social Democrats, Liberals (Venstre) and Moderates – want to abolish springtime public holiday Great Prayer Day in a move they say will enable increased defence spending to meet Nato targets by 2030, three years ahead of the current schedule. A bill was tabled by the government earlier in January.

The policy has met with criticism from trade unionsthe church and opposition parties, while the military itself has also distanced itself from the plan.

READ ALSO: 

In an alternative proposal, the nine opposition parties say they can raise the money by diverting 1.25 billion kroner from the public investment budget, 1 billion kroner from a winter assistance programme which the parties say was over-financed, and savings on business support spending of 0.75 billion kroner.

The three economists write that the opposition proposal could hold back the welfare system in future, however. Additionally, a reduction in business support could harm companies.

Regarding the economic effect of scrapping Great Prayer Day, they state that although this has a potential monetary benefit, it is uncertain.

That is because people working in Denmark could choose to adjust their working hours by taking less overtime or “hours of interest” (interessetimer), they state.

In addition, collective bargaining agreements between trade unions and employers could eventually provide for an extra day off in response to emerging demand for this.

That would negate the effect of scrapping the holiday, the experts said.

READ ALSO: What is a Danish collective bargaining agreement?

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