New Danish government to scrap plans for ‘deserted island’ deportation facility

Plans to accommodate ‘unwanted’ migrants on Lindholm, an uninhabited Danish island, are to be scrapped by Mette Frederiksen’s incoming government.

New Danish government to scrap plans for 'deserted island' deportation facility
Lindholm. File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The outgoing coalition led by Lars Løkke Rasmussen reached a deal late last year to place up to 125 rejected asylum seekers and migrants with criminal records in the process of being deported on the island.

But the island will no longer be used for the facility, according to details of the agreement announced late last night between Frederiksen and left-wing support parties, as the new Social Democrat-led minority government was confirmed.

Neither will the convicted foreign nationals remain at Kærshovedgård, a facility in central Jutland where they currently live alongside rejected asylum seekers who have not committed any crimes. Businesses and members of the public in the area near Kærshovedgård have expressed feelings of insecurity, with one incident of assault and several of petty theft reported.

READ ALSO: The middle of nowhere: Inside Denmark's Kærshovedgård deportation camp

As such, a new plan must be formed for how the migrants will be accommodated.

The new government will also place families at an alternative location to Sjælsmark, a facility for rejected asylum seekers which has been criticized by the Danish Red Cross. The NGO has warned it could damage children’s mental well-being.

“These are rejected asylum seekers who currently live next door to a shooting range. We can do better,” Frederiksen said of Sjælsmark after the government agreement was announced.

The agreement states that the new departure for families will “be established in accordance with recommendations from the Red Cross and the Ombudsman report regarding the conditions at Sjælsmark.”

Additionally, Denmark will resume accepting refugees under the UN's quota system, something it has not done since 2016.

The number which will be accepted is yet to be specified, but UN quota refugees will be taken in during 2019 and 2020, Social Liberal leader Morten Østergaard said to press following the announcement of the agreement.

Although some concessions have been made regarding refugees, Frederiksen reiterated her promise to broadly continue the hardline approach to immigration of her predecessor and said the new agreement achieves this.

The so-called “paradigm shift”, a new approach to asylum which focuses on returning refugees to their source countries once this is deemed possible, rather than integrating them, will be retained.

A bill to this end was passed by Rasmussen’s government earlier this year, with the Social Democrats voting in favour.

READ ALSO: Denmark's parliament passes 'paradigm change' asylum bill

“We are still focused on repatriation and temporary asylum. When you are a refugee and come to Denmark, you can be granted our protection. But when there’s peace, you must go home,” Frederiksen said.

Rules for refugees who are in employment in Denmark may be eased, however.

“We have seen examples of refugees losing their right to residency even though they are working. We are therefore now making it possible for a refugee to stay in Denmark provided they have a job,” Frederiksen said.

“That will require two years with the same employer and that the employer wishes to retain the person in question,” she said.

READ ALSO: Frederiksen to become Denmark's youngest PM after left-wing parties reach deal

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Swedish parliament to vote on raising minimum salary for work permits

Next week, the Swedish parliament is due to vote on a proposal to raise the current work permit salary threshold from the current level of 13,000 kronor a month. The government and the Sweden Democrats have proposed raising it to around 33,000 kronor a month.

Swedish parliament to vote on raising minimum salary for work permits

The proposal would raise the maintenance requirement for work permit applicants from outside the EU, the Nordic countries and Switzerland – and it looks likely to pass, as the three government parties, along with the Social Democrats and the Sweden Democrats are in favour of the move.

The current proposal was put forward by the former Social Democrat government, and after discussions in the social insurance committee, it was clear that a majority of the parliamentary parties are in favour – only the Left Party, the Greens and the Centre Party are against it.

“A higher maintenance requirement is a welcome step on the path towards a system that curbs cheating and fraud and focuses on highly qualified labour immigration,” migration minister Maria Malmer Stenergard told TT newswire in a written comment.

The Swedish framework for work permit immigration has been described as unique. In contrast to most other countries in Europe which are specifically aimed at highly educated immigrants, Sweden accepts all immigrants who fulfil the requirements despite their education or profession.

The number of labour immigrants to Sweden has also increased substantially. So far this year, over 50,000 applications have come in, of which 38,000 have been approved. Labour immigrants represent the majority of immigrants in Sweden.

It’s also unclear when the change in legislation could become law. No date is given in the proposal, but the suggested date of implementation is “the day the government decides”.

Another element which is not yet clear is exactly how high the salary threshold will be. This will be decided in a separate regulation, which is planned to come into force at the same time as the new law.

Sweden’s Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard has yet to say what the new salary threshold will be. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

“The goal is to introduce the new maintenance requirement as soon as possible, and we will give more information on the exact limit at a later date,” Stenergard told TT.

In the Tidö coalition agreement, the government and the Sweden Democrats state that the salary threshold should be the same as the average salary, which is currently around 33,000 kronor a month.

Seasonal workers, such as berry pickers, will not be affected by this proposal.

Further tightening up of labour migration laws are also expected in the future. For example, the government wants to investigate if certain professions – such as personal assistants – should be banned from getting work permits. Stenergard has also announced that the so-called ‘track change’, where asylum seekers can switch to other permits, such as work permits, will be abolished.