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Denmark’s former immigration minister, Inger Stojberg. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Denmark’s former immigration minister, Inger Stojberg. Picture: BLOOMBERG

A Danish politician behind some of Europe’s strictest immigration policies will be jailed after she was found guilty of breaching her duties by illegally separating refugee couples. 

Former immigration minister Inger Stojberg was sentenced to 60 days of unconditional imprisonment, Denmark’s impeachment court ruled on Monday. Legislators will now decide if Stojberg, currently serving as an independent member of parliament, is unfit to hold her seat until the next election, due to be held no later than June 2023.

The verdict highlights changes in the Nordic nation, which was ahead of much of the rest of Europe when it embraced anti-immigration policies at the beginning of the 2000s. 

In 2016, Denmark separated 23 refugee couples upon arrival on Stojeberg’s order, which was later deemed unlawful by the parliament’s ombudsman as it failed to acknowledge that couples have the right for individual assessments. 

Stojberg, who was forced to quit as deputy leader of Denmark’s main opposition party earlier in 2021, argued that she was trying to protect girls from being forced into marriage before they’re adults. 

“Danish values lost today, not just me,” she told reporters immediately after the ruling, in which 25 out of 26 judges said she acted with intent. She said she doesn’t regret her actions.

A favourite to become the next head of the country’s once powerful far right party, Stojberg’s sentencing could mean more hardship for the ailing political force.

The support for the far right has dried up partly as other parties including the ruling Social Democrats have adopted some of its anti-immigration agenda.

The impeachment trial, the country’s first in almost three decades, was launched by parliament earlier in 2021 after a legal probe identified Stojberg as the sole responsible minister. Prosecution had sought a four-month conditional jail term. 

Stojberg’s reunification policies have drawn harsh criticism from the UN’s refugee agency among others. During her tenure as a minister, she was also responsible for the so-called jewellery law, which forces refugees to hand over valuables when seeking asylum. 

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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