5th Mar 2024

Danish ex-immigration minister gets 60 days jail

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Denmark's former immigration minister Inger Støjberg was on Monday (13 December) sentenced to 60 days in jail for separating married asylum seekers.

The jail term comes as a blow to the former conservative-liberal minister whose anti-migrant policies were strengthened to rely on the support of the far-right Danish People's Party during her tenure from 2015 to 2019.

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The 48-year old Støjberg was given the sentence for having issued an order, in February 2016, to separate married and cohabiting couples, if one of the two was deemed a minor.

But the Danish Supreme Court ruled it unlawful, noting that no individual assessments had been made prior to the separations.

The judges said the order had violated Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which deals with the right to respect for private and family life.

It had also breached Danish laws, it said, describing Støjberg's violations as having been committed "intentionally or through gross negligence". She also stood accused of providing parliament with "incorrect or misleading information".

Some 23 married couples were separated in a policy Støjberg argued was designed to tackle child marriage. The women said they had consented to the relationships.

Støjberg of the conservative-liberal Venstre party at the time, plus senior members of the Danish People's Party, said the verdict had come as a surprise.

"I'm very, very surprised. I have to say that, and I think it is the Danish values ​​that have lost today, it is not just me, but the Danish values," said Støjberg who resigned from Venstre in February and is now an independent MP.

However, the order on separations were not the only controversial measures Støjberg enacted.

Under her tenure, Denmark had also drawn up plans to seize migrants' jewellery and valuables to cover the costs of their stay in the country.

At the time, Støjberg defended the policy, saying that Danes are also sometimes required to sell off their valuables before receiving benefits. She had also launched ads in Lebanese newspapers to discourage would-be Syrian asylum seekers from going to Denmark.

The Monday ruling is final, although it may be possible for Støjberg to serve some of the sentence wearing an ankle-bracelet.

The court verdict comes amid a further hardening of the current left-leaning government's position on asylum, which it seeks to outsource.

Over the summer, Rasmus Stoklund, the government party's immigration speaker, said the overall plan was to stop people from seeking asylum in Denmark.

Stoklund's comments came on the back of a Danish law that seeks to relocate asylum seekers to other countries like Rwanda.

Some 1,500 people applied for asylum in Denmark last year, compared to the peak of more than 21,000 in 2015.

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