Danish immigration minister Tesfaye switches jobs in government reshuffle

Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye was on Monday named as the new Justice Minister in Denmark in a government reshuffle.

New Danish immigration minister Kaare Dybvad Bek (L) takes over from Mattias Tesfaye
New Danish immigration minister Kaare Dybvad Bek (L) takes over from Mattias Tesfaye on May 2nd 2022. Photo: Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix

Three ministerial portfolios changed hands on Monday following the unexpected resignation on Sunday of the erstwhile Minister of Justice Nick Hækkerup.

In the headline move, Tesfaye was given Hækkerup’s job at the Ministry of Justice by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

Kaare Dybvad Bek, who was Interior and Housing Minister, moves over to take Tesfaye’s job as immigration minister. Bek is meanwhile replaced at the housing ministry by political spokesperson Christian Rabjerg Madsen.

The movements following Hækkerup’s surpise announcement on Sunday that he was quitting his post at the Ministry of Justice, perhaps the most high-profile position in the Danish government after the Prime Minister, to become chairperson at the Danish Brewers’ Association (Bryggeriforeningen).

Tesfaye has occupied the post of immigration minister since 2019, when he took over from Inger Støjberg as government changed hands following the Social Democrats’ general election.

Despite coming from the opposite side of the political aisle to Støjberg, he sought to cultivate for himself his predecessor’s image as a hardliner against immigration and pursued strict policies on asylum and refugees.

READ ALSO: Minister praises ‘low’ number of Denmark asylum applications in 2021

He was at the forefront of Denmark’s pursuit of an offshore asylum centre in Rwanda, a plan criticised by the UN and rights groups, and was criticised at the EU parliament over Denmark’s policy of repatriating some of its Syrian refugees from the Damascus area.

His stance on asylum softened markedly following the Russian invasion of Ukraine as he pushed through a new law to assist displaced Ukrainians arriving in Denmark.

He faces a number of new challenges in his new job at the Ministry of Justice, including a high-profile case centred around leaks at intelligence service Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE), in which the former intelligence chief Lars Findsen and former defence minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen have both been accused of leaking sensitive information.

READ ALSO: Denmark frees ex-spy boss accused of leaks

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Poll suggests Danes ready to scrap EU opt-out in referendum

A new poll indicates a majority of Danes is in favour of scrapping the country’s EU defence opt-out in an upcoming referendum.

Poll suggests Danes ready to scrap EU opt-out in referendum

The poll, conducted by Epinion on behalf of broadcaster DR, shows 38 percent of voters in favour of revoking the opt-out, compared with 27 percent who want to retain it.

28 percent said they do not know how they will vote, meaning there is still plenty of potential for both a “yes” and “no” outcome in the June 1st vote.

An earlier poll, conducted in March, put the two sides closer, with 38 percent of eligible voters then saying they would vote ‘yes’ to scrapping the opt-out, with 31 percent saying they would vote ‘no’ and 31 percent saying they didn’t know.

The government announced in March a June 1st referendum in which citizens will decide whether to overturn Denmark’s opt-out from EU defence policy. The referendum was called following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Denmark’s opt-out – retsforbehold in Danish – is one of four EU special arrangements negotiated by the Scandinavian country, and has seen it abstain from participation in EU military operations and from providing support or supplies to EU-led defence efforts.

READ ALSO: Why does Denmark have four EU ‘opt-outs’ and what do they mean?

In April, the wording of the question on voting ballots for the referendum was changed, following objections from politicians opposed to scrapping the opt-out.

According to a breakdown of the new poll, younger voters and women are the most undecided groups. 20 percent of men said they were unsure how to vote compared to 38 percent of women.

Among 18-34 year-olds, 39 percent were unsure how they would vote compared to 22 percent of voters over the age of 56 who have yet to decide how to cast their votes.