Convicted Danish ex-minister faces vote on parliament expulsion

Copenhagen (AFP) – Denmark's former migration minister on Tuesday faces a vote that is likely to expel her from parliament, after she was convicted of violating migrants' rights by separating asylum-seeking couples.


Inger Stojberg was hit with a 60-day jail term for flouting her responsibilities as a minister last week following a trial in a rarely used court that oversees the conduct of ministers.

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.

The 48-year-old self-styled champion of "Danish values", a hugely popular politician who served as minister from 2015 to 2019, is expected to attend debates in parliament on Tuesday that are likely to lead to her exclusion.

Danish law allows for those serving short sentences to remain free, so Stojberg is likely to spend her sentence under restrictions rather than in prison.

Most parties are in favour of pushing Stojberg out, including her former party the liberal Venstre, which she left in February.

"It is unimaginable that one could be in prison serving a sentence while being an MP," Venstre's parliamentary chairman Karsten Lauritzen told reporters last week.

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, most of whom had only a small age difference, 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, who enjoyed high approval ratings during her time in office, said the policy was designed to fight against forced marriages.

"I think this is a defeat for Danish values today, not just for me," Stojberg said after her trial.

"I am being punished for trying to protect the girls. Frankly, something is very wrong," she later said in a social media message.

However, Stojberg said she respected the verdict and accepted her sentence, adding: "My life goes on."

On Friday, she chose to return an honorary order received from the queen.

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.