Denmark: Proposal to hold migrants on island for contagious animals

Once a scientific testing site for animals with contagious diseases, the small and remote island of Lindholm could soon become a holding site for “unwanted” migrants in Denmark.

In its latest attempt to crack down on immigration, the centre-right Danish government and the right-wing Danish People’s Party (DPP) announced on 7 December 2018 that they plan to house as many as 100 migrants whose applications for asylum have been rejected, but who cannot be deported.

The facilities on the uninhabited island, which spans just 17 acres, currently include laboratories, stables and a crematorium for dead animals. By 2021, these facilities may be replaced with basic accommodation for migrants.

The plan foresees the island’s inhabitants receiving a daily allowance of USD 1.20, but this amount can be withheld if they fail to cooperate with the authorities.

Although the island is not technically a detention centre, DPP immigration spokesperson, Martin Henriksen, told CNN: “Our approach is that [the migrants] should stay on the island as much as possible, and if we can keep them there the whole time, we will aim to do that.”

In order to keep migrants on the island, the government will make it compulsory for them to register there daily and will make ferry services deliberately infrequent and expensive.

Henriksen added: “We plan to have police, prison services, guards and detention cells in place, in case of any unrest.”

This proposal is part of an explicit strategy to make Denmark an unappealing destination country for migrants. Danish Minister for Immigration, Integration and Housing, Inger Støjberg, wrote on her social media accounts that certain people “are unwanted and they will feel it.”

Henriksen described the strategy, saying: “Our hope … is that people outside Denmark will understand that Denmark is not a very attractive place to seek asylum if you are of refugee background, mean to cause harm, or incite crime.”

The new plan, which must still be approved by parliament, has sparked an international outcry. Louise Holck, deputy executive director of The Danish Institute for Human Rights, said her organisation would watch the situation “very closely” for any possible violations.

The chief of the United Nations agency for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, also told journalists in Geneva that she had “serious concerns” with the plan.

“We’ve seen the negative impact of such policies of isolation, and [they] should not replicate these policies,” Bachelet said. “Because depriving them of their liberty, isolating them, and stigmatising them will only increase their vulnerability.”

Denmark has adopted sterner policies toward migrants in recent years. For instance, a “jewelry law” introduced in 2016 forced people seeking refuge in Denmark to contribute some of their wealth in the form of cash or valuables to the government.

TMP – 21/12/2018

Photo: Stig Alenas/Shutterstock. Two policemen looking at the papers of some immigrants. Copenhagen, Denmark, April 2017.