Former military barracks in northern Zealand will become an asylum centre to exclusively house rejected asylum seekers who are being prepared for repatriation.
The new asylum centre in Sjælsmark Kaserne will be run by Kriminalforsorgen, the nation’s prison and probation system, and will house up to 700 rejected and criminal asylum seekers who require extra surveillance and security.
The failed asylum seekers will have their monthly allowance withdrawn and will be forced to eat at a cafeteria in the centre but they will also be offered counselling on how to start a new life back in their home country.
“Rejected asylum seekers need to go home because they have no place in Denmark,” the justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), stated in a press release. “The government is taking a big step to get more asylum seekers to go home. Housing them in a departure centre sends a clear signal that it is their last stop in Denmark and that they have to return home.”
The number of failed asylum seekers living in centres has risen from around 500 in 2009 to 1,700 this summer. The new departure centre will free up space for other centres, such as Sandholm Asylum Centre, to house newly-arrived asylum seekers and those whose applications are being reviewed.
Hørsholm Council, where the barracks are located, has expressed concern about the new centre and is unlikely to voluntarily change its planning laws to allow it to be established.
Instead, Bødskov is expected to force a change of planning law by using powers granted through the immigration laws – a move that was condemned by Hørsholm's mayor, Morten Slotved (Konservative).
“It’s completely unacceptable,” Slotved told Berlingske newspaper, adding that with less than two kilometres between Sandholm and Sjælsmark Kaserne, the high concentration of asylum seekers may present challenges to the local community.
“These are people that should leave the country, so they won’t have the same expectations to live up to Denmark’s laws, norms and rules,” Slotved said. “We have had unaccompanied young asylum seekers in our council that resulted in a lot of criminal activity.”
According to the Justice Ministry, the new departure centre will be equipped with strong security such as a 24-hour manned entrance, video surveillance, an electronic locking system and a fence surrounding the perimeter.
Despite these assurances, Venstre’s immigration spokesperson, Inger Støjberg, argued that the departure centre is misplaced.
“It significantly changes a local community to have both a large asylum centre and a large departure centre in such close proximity,” Støjberg told Ritzau. “I support the need to become more effective at repatriation because [rejected asylum seekers] don’t have the right to be in the country, but that does not change the fact that the centre is problematically located.”