Denmark is to send foreign criminals to Kosovo, renting 300 prison places in the tiny Balkan state for those set to be deported after serving their sentences, as Copenhagen keeps up its hardline stance on immigration.
The treaty signed between Copenhagen and Pristina will allow foreign nationals to serve their sentence in Gjilan prison in the southeast of Kosovo, the Danish justice ministry said on Wednesday.
Nick Haekkerup, Denmark's justice minister, said he was "proud and happy" to sign the "groundbreaking agreement" that would ease overcrowding in Danish prisons.
He added: “Denmark is also sending a clear signal to foreigners sentenced to deportation: your future does not lie in Denmark, and therefore you will not serve your time here either.”
The Scandinavian country has also been in discussions with Rwanda about a scheme, similar to one recently unveiled by the UK, to process asylum seekers in the east African country. It is the first European nation to put pressure on Syrian refugees to go home, saying it is safe for them to return to the area around the capital Damascus, although it has not forced any to leave.
The uncompromising approach to immigration and integration taken by Denmark's ruling Social Democrats is being closely watched across Europe. They are one of the few centre-left parties to have increased their standing in the polls, in large part by cutting off support for the nationalist Danish People's Party by mirroring its policies.
The Social Democrats have continued a 20-year tradition of Danish governments tightening restrictions on asylum seekers as well as tough new integration measures, including doubling criminal penalties in areas classified as “ghettos”.
The Social Democrats scored 29 per cent against just 5 per cent for the DPP in the most recent opinion poll, compared with the 2015 election results which gave them 26 and 21 per cent respectively.
"My party is in a terrible state . . . Many of the other parties such as the Social Democrats have changed their way of looking at immigration to what we wanted. Of course, it should be a luxury when you're a politician and see what you dreamed of is now coming true," Soren Espersen, foreign policy spokesman for the DPP, told foreign journalists last week.
The Danish-Kosovan agreement still needs to be ratified by both parliaments and the first prisoners are expected to be transferred in 2023. The treaty specifies that the prisoners should be detained under “basically the same conditions” as a Danish jail, and can be deported directly to their home countries after serving their sentences.– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022