The Danish press has suggested the government’s “humiliating” failure bodes ill for the ruling Social Democrats, as it proves the supporting parties can pressure Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on other issues as well.
The Danish government has officially scrapped plans to open a so-called departure centre for immigrants slated for expulsion on the island of Langeland, after fierce opposition from parliamentary allies and local islanders.
The deportation centre, proposed last week, would house immigrants with so-called “tolerated stay”, that is those who lack permission to reside in Denmark but cannot be forcibly deported for legal or humanitarian reasons. The facility was planned to accommodate some 130 foreign nationals with criminal records awaiting deportation.
Opposition parties slammed the proposed deportation centre, calling for more remote placement. Even the governing coalition showed no signs of unity. The Socialist People’s Party, a key ally of the ruling Social Democrats, openly pledged to block the plan, leaving the minority government without the parliamentary leverage needed to push it through.
Landeland locals protested vocally during a visit by Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye and subsequently arranged a demonstration in front of the government quarter. When the news arrived that the centre would be dropped, a celebration with flags was oranised.
“It is very obvious that there’s a majority in parliament which is against the establishment of a new departure centre on Langeland”, Tesfaye told Danish Radio. “That’s a shame in my view, but I have also said from the start that I cannot conjure up the centre against the parliamentary majority after all”, he added.
Tesfaye also said that he would welcome suggestions from other parties for alternative locations.
“If the parties come up with suggestions for other possible and new locations, my door is always open and there is coffee in my jug. But as it looks now, it unfortunately means that the exit centre must for the time being remain where it is”, the minister said.
The inmates, who would have otherwise moved to Langeland, will therefore remain at a similar facility at Kærshovedgård in Jutland that houses both rejected asylum seekers and expelled criminal aliens.
The Kærshovedgård centre remains controversial due to the surrounding insecurity in the area. Both the previous and current government wanted to move the criminals to a different, more secluded place.
In Ikast-Brande Municipality, where Kærshovedgård is located, the reaction to Mattias Tesfaye’s retreat has been harsh.
Deputy Mayor Simon Vanggaard of the Danish People’s Party accused the government of breaking its promise.
“The Social Democrats went to the polls to find a solution. They seem breaking that promise, and I think that is highly unsatisfactory. Because it is a bad solution we have right now”, Simon Vanggaard told TV2.
The Danish newspaper Information suggested that the retreat from Langeland heralds major problems for the governing Social Democrats.
“The humiliating failure of the Social Democrat government in the fight over the now-cancelled exit centre on Langeland shows that the support parties can pressure Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to change course”, it said in an editorial, adding that the big question is whether the government will prevail in the impending clashes over climate and social benefits.
So far, the Social Democrats have collaborated with the right-of-centre “blue” bloc more than with their left-of-centre “red” bloc allies.