In Depth

Denmark to house foreign criminals on tiny island used for animal testing

Parliament passes scheme affecting 100 criminals who cannot be deported despite UN criticisms

Denmark’s parliament has approved funding for a plan to keep foreign criminals that have completed their jail sentences on a tiny island despite criticism from the UN and human rights groups.

The country’s government, “which is taking an increasingly tough stance on immigration”, according to The Guardian, wants to send up to 100 people who have completed jail sentences but cannot be deported because they are at risk of torture or execution in their home countries to the island of Lindholm.

It claims those who are deemed to be criminals, pose a national security concern or have “other relevant reasons” but cannot be deported for legal reasons will be moved to a facility on Lindholm, which had in the past been reserved for experiments on animals.

“The residents of the return centre will be foreigners, who due to criminality, national security concerns or other relevant reasons are excluded from residence permit as refugees, but who cannot be returned to their country of origin due to the risk of ill-treatment,” the government announcement said.

“They are unwanted in Denmark, and they will feel that,” the immigration minister, Inger Stojberg, wrote on Facebook.

The Danish People’s Party “celebrated the announcement of the policy by posting a cartoon on social media showing a dark-skinned man with a beard being dumped onto a desert island”, reports The Independent.

Alongside the image, the party wrote: “Deported, criminal foreigners have no reason to be in Denmark. Until we can get rid of them, we will move them to the island of Lindholm. They will be obliged to stay at the new deportation centre at night and there will be police around the clock. Great!”

Lindholm Island “has been used as a laboratory and crematory by scientists researching swine flu, rabies and other contagious diseases”, says Reuters. The government said it would decontaminate the uninhabited island by late 2019 and open the detention facilities in 2021.

Human rights activists “have denounced the decision, calling it degrading and inhumane”, says German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

While the mayor of Vordingborg municipality, Mikael Smed, where the island is located, was not enthusiastic about the measure. “People think this is not the solution to the real problems,” Smed said prior to today's parliamentary vote.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet had also expressed concerned about the island measure last month. “I have serious concerns with this plan and we will monitor it and discuss it ... with the government,” Bachelet told journalists in Geneva.

“We've seen the negative impact of such policies of isolation, and (they) should not replicate these policies. Because depriving them of their liberty, isolating them, and stigmatising them will only increase their vulnerability,” she added.

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