Could Danish foreign minister Rasmussen change stance over children in Syria?

Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen says the new government is yet to finalise its position on the issue of Danish children who remain at prison camps in Syria.

Could Danish foreign minister Rasmussen change stance over children in Syria?
Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen says the government is yet to finalise its position on whether to evacuate Danish children still stranded at Syrian prison camps. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Rasmussen, who spoke in favour of repatriating the children before the election, said a decision had not yet been taken after meeting with parliament’s foreign policy committee on Wednesday.

“We’ve negotiated a very comprehensive government policy agreement that fills many pages. But we have not yet addressed all questions and answered every question,” he said.

“The question you are asking is precisely one of those questions,” he said in response to news wire Ritzau asking about the children.

Rasmussen took a clear stance on the matter prior to the election. In April, he wrote on Twitter that “Danish children are Danish children – and they must come home!”

“If necessary, their mothers must come with them,” he wrote.

A number of children with Danish nationality or the right to Danish nationality have been stranded in recent years at al-Hol and al-Roj, two Kurdish-run prison camps for former Islamic State (Isis) militants and their families and sympathisers. Conditions at the camps are dire according to reports by human rights organisations.

Practice under the policies of the previous single-party Social Democratic government saw Denmark refuse to evacuate mothers unless they have sole Danish citizenship.

If the mothers were connected to Denmark, for example by prior residence or through marriage or if their children were born there, they were not evacuated unless they hold citizenship. Denmark has revoked the citizenship of some of the persons involved.

If they have dual citizenship, the mother were also refused evacuation – although the government has broken with this policy in one instance.

Their children can be extracted from the camps, but this requires the mothers to agree to separation from their children, and this is often not the case.

READ ALSO: Organisation sues Denmark for failure to evacuate children from Syrian camps

Rasmussen, now Foreign Minister, did not give a firm answer on his current position as to repatriating the children.

“I’ve had the privilege until just a few days ago of giving only my own or my party’s opinion. My work is now in partnership with two other parties who have a government position,” he said.

“Other parties’ positions on this exact point are not as well known as mine has been. In principle, nothing has changed it,” he said.

After three mothers and 14 children were evacuated from the camps in 2021, five children and three mothers remain according to Ritzau.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has previously ruled out allowing any of the remaining mothers to be evacuated to Denmark.

One of the mothers who did return to Denmark has since been convicted on terror-related charges and for travelling to a conflict zone without permission from the Danish state. She was sentenced to three years in prison.

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KEY POINTS: What is in Denmark’s 2023 budget proposal?

Denmark’s coalition government presented on Thursday a new budget proposal in which it said it was “stepping on the brakes” on state spending.

KEY POINTS: What is in Denmark’s 2023 budget proposal?

Danish budgets are usually tabled and eventually adopted during the autumn, but last year’s election disrupted the normal timetable.

The proposed budget, given the title “A Responsible Way Forward” (En ansvarlig vej frem) was presented by ministers from the three coalition parties on Thursday: Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen, acting Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen and Culture Minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt.

A cautious economic approach to spending is needed given global circumstances including the war in Ukraine, inflation and last year’s energy crisis, Wammen said.

“Even though a lot of things look good when we look at the Danish economy, that doesn’t change where we are. Uncertain times,” he said.

Engel-Schmidt added that some might describe the proposed budget as “boring”, given that it “doesn’t bring a shower of presents”.

Key points from the proposed budget are outlined below. The proposal will go into negotiations with other parties in parliament before being voted through in its final form.

Inflation assistance to lower income groups 

Last year saw the highest inflation rate for 40 years in Denmark, and the effects will still be felt in 2023 even if the inflation percentages themselves are less severe.

Although the government wants to “step on the brakes”, it has still set aside 2.4 billion kroner for financial assistance to people vulnerable to rising prices.

Some 1.1 billion kroner will be spent on 5,000 kroner “cheques” for elderly persons who receive social welfare. People who have high medicine costs and students who receive subsidies because they must provide for others, such as single parents (SU-forsørgertillæg) are also among groups to be assisted with the inflation spending.

READ ALSO: Danish government agrees inflation package for vulnerable families 

‘Acute plan’ for hospitals

An agreement with regional health authorities on an “acute” spending plan to address the most serious challenges faced by the health services has already been agreed, providing 2 billion kroner by the end of 2024.

The agreement was announced by the government along with regional and municipal officials in February.

READ ALSO: What exactly is wrong with the Danish health system?

‘Lower than ever’ reserve fund

A so-called “negotiation reserve” (forhandlingsreserve), a pool of money in the budget that can be allocated at a later date based on agreements between parties, has been significantly cut to 200 million kroner.

A 2023 budget proposal from August last year, which was not adopted due to the election, had the fund at 600 million kroner. The reserve has been as high as 1.5 billion kroner in the past, according to broadcaster DR’s report on Thursday’s proposal.

The previous, single-party Social Democratic government was reported to favour mental health services and the elderly as areas which could benefit from the fund in 2023.

The lower amount is partly due to the shorter timescale of this year’s budget. The 2024 budget will be proposed and passed in late 2023 under the regular timetable.

“There are still things we can prioritise but we are asking you to take responsibility to get Denmark through while inflation is still a major challenge,” Wammen said.

Spending on courts system

Some 32.2 million kroner has been put aside to specifically target a reduction in waiting times for court dates, DR writes. The money is part of a larger amount, 185 million kroner, to be spent on the courts.

Denmark’s courts system has in recent years seen a rising number of criminal cases and lengthy processing times.

Broadband internet to get boost in rural spending

The “broadband fund” or bredbåndspulje will get an additional 100 million kroner to improve coverage in areas that still have patchy connection.

Another 100 million kroner will go into the landsbypulje or “Village Fund”, giving rural municipalities funding for demolition or renovation of deteriorated buildings.


A majority in parliament has already voted in favour of a seven-billion kroner fund in 2023 to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion.

The fund will be spent on Danish military, civilian and commercial assistance to Ukraine.

Part of the spending is funded by Denmark’s international development budget, while over 5 billion comes from spending an increased portion of the national GDP on the 2023 budget.

READ ALSO: Denmark announces seven-billion kroner Ukraine fund