COPENHAGEN, Denmark - In a move that has generated mixed reactions in the country, the Danish government has announced plans to imprison foreign criminals on a deserted island.
Denmark's conservative coalition government announced that foreign-born criminals in the country would be housed on a remote prison island before being deported.
According to the government, convicts who are set to be deported will be housed on Lindholm Island, which is located one-and-a-half miles from the Danish mainland.
'Not a prison'
Spread across 17 acres, the site on Lindholm Island, in Stege Bay, will reportedly hold convicted criminals with only "tolerated stay" status while their departure is processed.
Denmark's Finance Minister Kristian Jensen said that low-risk prisoners will still be allowed to travel to-and-from the mainland with a ferry service during the day, provided they check back every night.
Jensen pointed out that it is "not a prison" but the ferry to and from the island will "not operate around the clock, and inhabitants must stay at the departure centre at night."
He said, "That way we will be able to monitor where they are. There are more limits to how much you can move around when you are on a desert island. You are in principle obliged to remain on the island. So we will have more control over where they are."
Jensen added, "It is a problem for us that we can see that some foreigners who have in fact been sentenced to deportation are still committing crimes, and we have no way of monitoring them."
The anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DF) has provided support in securing funding for the plan.
The party's official Twitter account posted a statement on the platform along with an animated video of a dark-skinned man being transported by boat to a small island, which was slammed as being "racist."
The party tweeted, "Expelled, criminal aliens have NO reason to be in Denmark. Until we can get rid of them, we will move them to the island of Lindholm in Stege Bay, where they will be obliged to stay at the new exit centre at night. And there will be police present around the clock. Great!"
'Racist depiction, inhuman politics'
However, the government's plans came under heavy criticism from opposition parties that were especially furious about the video posted by DF.
Calling the government's plan a "humanitarian collapse," Uffe Elbaek, the leader of the environmentalist Alternative party said, "The green government I want to lead would never force people on to a deserted island. Inhuman politics are creating a completely different Denmark to the Denmark I love."
Meanwhile, Morten Ostergaard, leader of the Social Liberal Party slammed the policy, calling it "symbolic politics without an end."
Ostergaard warned that the policy would create "new problems with costs for everyone, aliens, Danes, all."
The video posted by the populist DF party was criticized by senior politician Balder Mork Andersen, who said, "Your distasteful propaganda video is pure racism. No less. And I say this even though I also think that expelled criminal aliens should naturally be sought as soon as possible."
Meanwhile, Mikael Smed from Socialdemokratiet said the policy simply "moved the problem from somewhere in the country to another."
However, defending the move, René Christensen, DF party's finance spokesman, said that the party would prefer to see criminal migrants put in jail but that an isolated island facility is a good compromise.
Christensen argued that the move sends the message that criminal migrants have "no future" in the country.
He said, "Of course we would rather have it so that rejected asylum seekers who have committed crimes were put in jail. But given we cannot, it is fortunate that there is a deserted island where we can place these people. This means that when they are there at night and in the evenings, they do not run around the local areas and cause insecurity."
Further, Denmark's Immigration and Integration Minister, Inger Stojberg said that the policy sends a clear message.
He pointed out, "I am pleased that we have also agreed to establish an exit centre on the island of Lindholm for the criminals who currently live at the Outreach Center Kærshovedgård. They are unwanted here in the country, and with the new exit centre on the island of Lindholm, we send a signal that they have no future in Denmark."
Currently, Lindholm Island is used as a research outpost of the Technical University of Denmark's Veterinary Institute for researching animal diseases.
The exit centre is expected to open in 2021, by which time the research outpost would be removed.
Further, the Danish Prison and Probation Service is set to take charge at the facility once it becomes operational.