Today Sophie in 't Veld submitted a question to the Commission about the plan of the Danish government to place certain third country nationals on the remote island of Lindholm.
Danish government plans to ban third country nationals to remote island
Recently, the Danish government announced plans to place certain third country nationals on the remote island of Lindholm, with limited ferry connections to the mainland. This would concern third country nationals with past criminal convictions, or third country nationals who are to be expelled from Denmark but cannot be expelled because they are stateless or because their readmission cannot be agreed with their country of origin. The announcement of the government was also accompanied by a video posted on social media by the Danske Folkeparti, showing clear elements of xenophobia and islamophobia.
1) Will the Commission assess these plans, including by requesting further details from the Danish government, in order to determine inter alia whether they could amount to detention and whether they comply with EU law?
2) Does the Commission consider that locating individuals to such remote places constitutes a violation of human rights law, in particular the rights to human dignity, liberty and family life?
3) What action will the Commission take to ensure the full respect of EU law and applicable fundamental rights standards following these developments.
Answer by the Commission:
The Commission is aware of the plan announced by the Danish government to use Lindholm Island to hold certain groups of irregular migrants, in particular, those who have been convicted of criminal offences and cannot be returned.
EC law allows Member States to restrict the freedom of movement of irregular migrants for preventing absconding and ensuring compliance with an obligation to return. If then authorities decide to detain irregular migrants, the Return Directive(1) requires that, third-country nationals illegally staying in the EU can be detained only in view of their removal, as a measure of last resort, if there is a risk that they abscond or if they avoid or hamper the preparation of return or the removal process. The length of detention shall be limited to what is necessary for enforcing removal and shall be terminated if there is no prospect of removal or the conditions for detention no longer exist. In any case, detention should not exceed 6 months, but may be prolonged by further 12 months in case of lack of cooperation or delay in obtaining travel documents(2).
The same Directive establishes common standards on the conditions of detention, notably that detention shall take place as a rule in specialised detention facilities(3). Member States remain free to determine the location of the facilities and the regime applicable therein; however, they shall respect the fundamental rights of the persons concerned, ensuring a humane and dignified treatment, as well as the principle of proportionality. Relevant soft-law standards on immigration detention exist(4).
The Commission will closely monitor the measures taken by the Danish government in the light of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the rules of the Return Directive.