© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Denmark’s Minister for Immigration and Integration Inger Stojberg listens to the debate in the Danish Parliament
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Former Danish Immigration Minister Inger Stojberg, known for her tough stance in that position, faces impeachment for illegally ordering the separation of underage couples seeking asylum. The center-right politician, who served as minister from 2015 to 2019, said the goal of the action was to eradicate child marriages. In the impeachment trial, which would be only Denmark’s sixth in more than 170 years and the first since 1995, he is charged with knowingly breaking the law in 2016 by ordering the separation of underage refugee couples. The majority in parliament on Thursday voiced support for an impeachment, including its own Liberal Party, but the decision awaits final approval. Denmark has gained notoriety over the past decade for its hard-line immigration policies, such as allowing authorities to confiscate jewelry from asylum seekers and deterring refugees from the Middle East through advertisements in their country’s newspapers. Stojberg was also behind a plan to keep foreign criminals facing deportation on a small island, although the plan was later abandoned by the current government. The case began when a Syrian couple complained to the country’s ombudsman in 2016 after they were placed in separate asylum centers. Stojberg has repeatedly denied giving an illegal order and said he wanted to protect underage girls. Under Danish and human rights laws, each couple must be assessed individually, which means that the minister’s order to separate all underage couples is illegal. In total, 23 couples separated. An investigation into the case, also known as the “child bride case,” concluded in December that the order to indiscriminately separate all underage couples was “clearly illegal” and violated human rights.