Former Danish immigration minister, Inger Stojberg, is set for an impeachment trial in Denmark | Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Eisenkrätzer
Former Danish immigration minister, Inger Stojberg, is set for an impeachment trial in Denmark | Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Eisenkrätzer

The Danish parliament has voted to begin an impeachment trial against the former immigration minister Inger Stojberg. She will go on trial over her policy of separating asylum seeking couples if one of them was under 18, and therefore a minor.

Inger Stojberg served as migration minister in the Danish government between June 2015 and 2019. Her policies towards migration have been described as "hardline" in various newspaper reports about her. She is a member of the center-right Danish Liberal Party Venstre.

Now the Danish parliament has voted 139-30 to impeach her in a rarely used proceeding. The last time the court convened was 26 years ago. The impeachment process will target her 2016 order to separate asylum seeking couples when one member of the couple was under the Danish legal age of marriage, 18.

The charges against Stojberg are, according to The Guardian newspaper, that of "illegally initiating the separation of cohabiting couples where one partner was a minor while being in the care of the Danish asylum system."

Consented to marriage

Denmark has softened its stance on immigration, but still has a relatively restrictive policy | Photo: picture-alliance/Scanpix Denmark
Denmark has softened its stance on immigration, but still has a relatively restrictive policy | Photo: picture-alliance/Scanpix Denmark

The Danish media, said the Guardian, reported that most of the partners who were minors were female and between the ages of 15 and 17. All declared they had consented to their marriages. The men in the couples ranged between the ages of 15 and 32.

According to the Guardian, Stojberg also "misled Danish parliamentary committees on four separate occasions when informing them of her decision." If found guilty, she could face a fine or up to two years in prison. No date has yet been set for the hearing.

At the time of the order, Stojberg received "warnings" from her department that what she was doing contravened the law. A parliamentary commission set up to investigate the practice later declared the policy "clearly illegal."

The policy aimed at separating 32 couples but Stojberg actually separated 23 couples before her policy was stopped. Most of the targeted couples came from Syria and some of the women had children with their partner or were pregnant, according to the Guardian.

Court convened five times through history

According to the news agency Associated Press (AP), the impeachment court was set up in 1849 and has convened five times in its history. The court will consist of 15 Supreme Court judges and 15 members appointed by the Danish parliament. So far, only two ministers have been found guilty in the court’s history, wrote AP.

In 1995, the former Justice Minister Erik Ninn-Hansen, received a "four-month suspended sentence for preventing Sri-Lankan refugees from bringing their families to Denmark," reported AP.

In 2019, the Social Democrats took control of the Danish governing coalition. Since then, reports AP, "immigration has become a less pressing issue." However, the social democrats said in early 2021 that they were aiming for "zero asylum seekers," in the future. They said they would continue their work to set up a new asylum system in order to achieve their goals.

Mette Frederiksen of the Danish Social Democrats has said that Danish social cohesion is important to protect |  Photo: EPA/LISELOTTE SABROE
Mette Frederiksen of the Danish Social Democrats has said that Danish social cohesion is important to protect | Photo: EPA/LISELOTTE SABROE

Danish immigration policy

Some members of the parliament have also called for centers outside Europe’s borders to process asylum seekers.

Danish has a relatively small population at just 5.8 million. Among politicians of many different political colors is the belief that too many immigrants could disrupt the Danish way of life. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in parliament in January, according to Danish newspaper Politiken: "We need to be careful that not too many people come to our country, otherwise our social cohesion cannot exist."

Although Stojberg herself cannot appeal against any final judgement of the impeachment court, she has said previously in the press that her aim in issuing her 2016 policy was to "stop child marriages and protect girls at risk."

 

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