The soul of a minister

Justice minister refutes claims that he has no empathy for those damned by harsh immigration laws

Morten Bødskov (S), the justice minister, is a sensitive man. At least he thinks so, according to an op-ed that he wrote for Politiken newspaper this morning. Under fire for what many see as his – and the government’s – tin ear and lack of concern for those caught up in the Gordian knot that is immigration law in Denmark, Bødskov writes that things have improved over the past two years and will get even better moving forward.

“After two years in office, we have created balance in immigration laws and removed the unfair restrictions put in place by Venstre and Dansk Folkeparti,” he wrote.

Bødskov claims that the government helps those who need it while making sure that criminals and asylum seekers denied access are sent out of the country.

“If one listens to V and DF, one gets the impression that we have thrown open the borders and are letting everyone in, but if one listens to Enhedslisten, it would give the impression that we are furthering Pia Kjærsgaard’s policies, Both are wrong.”

Bødskov went to great lengths in his op-ed to explain that he and his fellow lawmakers bring their “feelings with them” when they make laws.

He said that immigration laws and reforms impact each person differently, and that the needs of individuals are considered when laws are made.

Against the law
Bødskov defended what some see as his callous personal stance to not wade into individual cases to try to overturn rulings that are considered by many to be unfair.

“I am often asked why I do not step in and overrule the immigration service’s decision on specific cases. The answer is quite simple; it is against the law.”

Bødskov said that he cannot, as justice minister, simply override rules that were debated and passed by parliament.

“That would be a nightmare and a break down of the values our society is built on,” he wrote.

READ MORE: Special law saves Thai girl but hundreds aren't so lucky

Bødskov said that the celebrated case of Im Nielsen, in which a broad majority in parliament agreed to change legislation to give immigrants whose Danish spouses die the same rights as immigrants who become the victims of domestic violence, was not a case of him taking unilateral action, but rather a case where the general laws were changed by parliament. That law, which took effect immediately and includes all such cases dating back two years, came after intense public outcry following the deportation of Suthida Nielsen and her seven-year-old daughter, Im, to Thailand after the death of Nielsen’s husband. All the parties except DF supported the change.

“I am glad we found a solution that all parties – except DF – could agree to, but retroactive legislation is something that should be used sparingly,” Bødskov wrote.

The justice minister said that there will certainly be more difficult immigration cases to come in the future, but that they will be handled in what he called the “robust and fair” values of the laws now in place.