Denmark pushes ahead with controversial island immigration facility

20 Dec 18

The Danish parliament has passed its spending plans for next year, including a proposal to hold foreign criminals on a remote island.

The proposal includes 756m Danish kroner ($115m) over four years for immigration facilities on the island, scheduled to be up and running in 2021. The budget for 2019 was approved today but the plans were made public earlier in December.

Around 100 criminals, whose sentence of deportation cannot be carried out because they risk torture or execution in their home countries, will be placed on the small island, called Lindholm.

The finance minister Kristian Jensen, who has led the budget negotiations, said the island will not be a prison but that all immigrants will have to sleep here.

Foreigners will be required to report at the island centre daily and face imprisonment if they do not.

The island was bought by the Danish government in 1925 and is currently being used to test vaccines for exotic viral diseases on animals. 

The United Nations said in response to the plans when they were first made public earlier this month that such a move could have a negative impact.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said: “We’ve seen the negative impact of such policies in isolation and [governments] should not replicate these policies.

“Because depriving them of their liberty, isolating them, and stigmatising them will only increase their vulnerability.”

Integration minister Inger Stojberg told Danish media that creating a new centre on Lindholm will help us have “much better control over these people”.

“These people are, in one way or another, criminals and they are people who pose a threat for the safety of the state.”

In 1980 the Italian government has planned something similar, but it was shut down by the European Court of Human Rights. Legal experts have said it is too early to tell whether this project would cross international human rights boundaries.

Denmark has seen a surge of migration from the Middle East and Africa in 2015 and 2016, like many other European countries, which prompted a populist move.

Asylum seekers with criminal records are not allowed to work in Denmark. Those rejected, but cannot be deported, are given accommodation, food and an allowance of about 31 Danish kroner ($1.20) per day, which is withheld if they fail to work with the authorities.

The government has vowed to push immigration law to the limits of international conventions on human rights. This year the government also banned people wearing face veils in public.

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