Danish MPs approve migrant ‘virus island’ budget

Danish MPs approve migrant ‘virus island’ budget

Denmark’s parliament has approved funding for a plan to detain foreign criminals on an uninhabited three-hectare island, despite criticism from the opposition parties and the United Nations.

The island of Lindholm is currently used by the Technical University of Denmark to research vaccines, earning it the nickname “virus island” from the right-wing Danish People’s Party (DPP).

Lindholm is used as a laboratory and crematorium for scientists researching swine flu, rabies and other infectious diseases. A ferry called “Virus” serves the island southwest of Copenhagen.

Denmark’s tough stance on immigration has resulted in the move to send to Lindholm up to 100 people who have completed jail terms but cannot be deported under international law because they are at risk of torture or execution in their home countries.

The coalition government, which includes the anti-immigration DPP, has made changes to block the flow of migrants.

“They are unwanted in Denmark and they must feel that,” Integration Minister Inger Stojberg posted on Facebook in early December.

Funding was included in the 2019 budget, which was approved yesterday (Thursday). The centre for foreigners with a conviction is to be established by 2021 and is expected to cost around 759 million krone (€100 million).

The government said it would decontaminate the uninhabited island by late next year and open the detention centre in 2021.

The municipality of Vordingborg, which contains Lindholm, opposes the policy. “People think this is not the solution to the real problems,” Vordingborg mayor Mikael Smed said before MPs voted.

Most foreign ex-convicts who cannot be deported are currently held at a site in Jutland in the west of Denmark. Residents claim to feel unsafe but the police say crime has not risen.

Government anti-migrant policies include the reduction of benefits for asylum seekers, shortening temporary residence permits, stepping up deportations of rejected applicants and allowing the authorities to seize valuables from foreigners to help offset the state’s costs.

Under the island plan, those held on Lindholm could leave during the day but will have to report their movements to the authorities and return by nighttime.

“Now we tell people from day one that they should not remain in Denmark for the rest of their lives. They only get temporary shelter until they can return home,” said Peter Skaarup, DPP parliamentary leader, earlier this month.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet told the media in Geneva that the body opposed the policy. “I have serious concerns with this plan and we will monitor it and discuss it … with the government.

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

Lindholm. Picture credit: Wikimedia


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