Former Danish immigration minister in court over racism claims
Denmark’s former immigration minister lnger Stojeberg is being impeached over her allegedly racist and xenophobic policies while in office.
During Stojeberg’s term as Minister for Immigration, Integration and Housing from 2015 to 2019, she imposed more than a hundred new amendments limiting the rights of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.
Her policies included a scheme that would have seen refugees with criminal records sent to a bleak and uninhabited island in the Baltic Sea and restrictions requiring them to give up valuables to the state to pay for their time in Denmark.
She is also notorious for her racist statements claiming that Muslim bus drivers fasting during Ramadan posed a public safety hazard.
But then impeachment, just the sixth in Denmark’s history, specifically probes Ms Stojeberg’s policy of separating married asylum seekers when one of the parties is a minor.
When this regulation passed in 2016, Stojeberg claimed it was intended to “ensure that young girls are not forced to live in a relationship with an adult in asylum centres.”
One of the couples, a 17-year-old pregnant woman and her 26-year-old husband, filed a complaint with the nation’s ombudsman claiming their separation was unlawful.
Denmark’s Ombudsman Jorgen Steen Sorensen said: “If you separate families without being able to demonstrate a specific need, there may be a problem.”
The Danish Institute of Human Rights also criticised the program for implementing a blanket policy that does not recognise the differences in each refugee’s circumstances.
The impeachment indictment alleges that these regulations violated the European Convention on Human Rights because the policy failed to consider asylum applicants on a case-by-case basis and went against Article 8 banning separation and government interference with families.
Ms Stojeberg is also accused of violating the Danish Ministerial Accountability Act for unlawful misconduct and maladministration of office.
She is a centre-right politician from the liberal Venstre party who was instrumental in tightening Denmark’s immigration policy. She wrote an infamous article in 2018 in which she suggested that a “significant proportion of refugees” cheat or abuse the trust of Danes.
After her party formed a coalition government in 2015, Denmark has imposed a string of immigration controls.
In 2016, Denmark’s government approved a controversial measure to confiscate the valuables of asylum seekers to pay for their board and lodging.
After the law drew comparisons with the Nazis’ seizure of valuables from Jews in World War Two, wedding and engagement rings were excluded from the law.
Other measures include tightening requirements for learning Danish, tougher citizenship tests and financial independence.
Denmark saw a spike in arrivals of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in 2015 but the numbers have fallen significantly in recent years.
Ms Stojeberg’s trial is set to end in December. If impeached, she could be fined or receive up to two years in prison. She could also face a vote in parliament to remove her from her current position.