Danish parliament expels former migration minister

·2-min read
Inger Stojberg was hit with a 60-day jail term for flouting her responsibilities as a minister (AFP/EMMANUEL DUNAND)

Denmark's parliament on Tuesday voted to expel former migration minister Inger Stojberg, who was convicted last week of violating migrants' rights by separating asylum-seeking couples.

Following a lengthy debate, 98 members voted for her immediate expulsion and 18 against, making her the first parliamentarian to be kicked out in 30 years.

Stojberg, who was handed a 60-day jail term by a special court last week though is unlikely to serve any time in prison, had to leave the chamber immediately, waving goodbye as she stepped away.

"I would rather be voted out by my colleagues here in parliament for trying to protect some girls than voted out by the Danish people for turning a blind eye," she told reporters after exiting the chamber.

However, she said she was open to returning to politics, suggesting this would not be her "last word".

Her order to separate asylum-seeking couples when the woman was under 18 with no individual examination of the cases was found to have violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

Most political parties were in favour of removing the 48-year-old self-styled champion of "Danish values", a hugely popular politician who served as minister from 2015 to 2019

"It is not compatible with being a member of the parliament to receive a prison sentence," said Karsten Lauritzen, parliamentary chairman of Venstre, the party Stojberg left in February.

Since 1953, only four members of parliament have been excluded.

- 'Something is very wrong' -

In 2016, the government separated 23 couples without examining their cases following instructions from the minister.

The couples, who were mostly only a few years apart in age, were then placed in different centres while their cases were reviewed.

In seven of the cases, staff at the centres reported that the separated asylum seekers experienced suicidal thoughts or attempted to kill themselves.

The policy was found to be unlawful because the action was taken without allowing for exceptions or consideration of individual circumstances.

Stojberg said the policy was designed to fight against forced marriages and said after her trial that she was "being punished for trying to protect the girls".

"Frankly, something is very wrong," she wrote on social media at the time.

Stojberg helped tighten up Denmark's restrictive migration policies for a centre-right government propped up by the anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DF).

She passed a law allowing for migrants' assets to be confiscated to finance their care in Denmark and boasted of having passed more than 110 amendments restricting the rights of foreigners.

Despite the return of the left-wing Social Democrats to power two years ago, the Scandinavian country still has one of the most restrictive migration policies in Europe.

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