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Monday, 2 May 2011

Denmark asked to stop the imprisonment of vulnerable asylum seekers

Ellebæk Institution for Detained Foreigners
Source: Amnesty Denmark

[Google translation]

The Danish Integration Minister Soren Pind has been asked to explain why asylum seekers with mental disorders and torture victims and trafficked women are imprisoned indefinitely in Ellebæk Institution for Detained Foreigners. Amnesty International, Danish Refugee Council and Danish Red Cross asked him to ensure that Denmark will not put vulnerable people in prison and that the detention of asylum seekers is made only in extraordinary situations.

Amnesty International, the Danish Refugee Council and the Danish Red Cross have called for rejected asylum seekers to be detained only in exceptional circumstances and of they are that they can live in open detention centers.

Amnesty International's member magazine in February revealed that the Danish authorities routinely detained vulnerable groups. They say that this may conflict the European Convention on Human Rights Article three, which prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment. The European Court of Human Rights in a series of judgments has criticized countries for imprisoning vulnerable groups among asylum seekers with regard to Articles three as well as five (right to liberty and security).

Detention is happening because the immigration authorities and police say that there is a danger that asylum seekers will go underground while their cases are dealt with or if they are due to be deported. Amnesty has documented that the legal system only in extremely rare cases, follows the statutory requirement to use less coercive measures than detention - including reporting duties to the police.

"It is deeply disappointed that the Danish authorities hold in detention the mentally ill, victims of torture and trafficked women - who should never go to prison. Basically you have to be incredibly careful not to detain asylum seekers who already are in a very vulnerable position. Therefore politicians should recognise that the Aliens Act provides that you must use the least restrictive measures against asylum seekers," said Lars Normann Jørgensen, Secretary General of Amnesty International in Denmark.
One of these cases is about an Iranian man who had such serious mental illness, he was referred by an asylum center in Jutland to the reception center Kongelunden, a care center for asylum seekers with mental and physical problems. The man heard voices, cut himself and wrote with his blood on the walls. But despite warnings from the Danish Red Cross and the Danish Refugee Council about the man days after his arrival at Kongelunden he was picked up by police and imprisoned in Ellebæk. He subsequently received a diagnosis as psychotic incipient schizophrenia.
"It makes no sense. The asylum seeker was at Kongelunden because he was obviously very mentally ill. Then they put him in jail the day after he arrives? It appears that detention for much more than necessary, and that detention for vulnerable people who should not be in prison," said Andreas Kamm, Secretary-General of the Danish Refugee Council.
Among the inmates of Ellebæk there are examples of asylum seekers detained for up to two years without having committed any crime. Imprisonment is renewed every four weeks in a court in Hillsboro. Amnesty knows of 50 cases passing through in Hillsboro in the autumn of 2010. In all cases the judge chose to follow the police recommendation of continued detention. This happens even though the authorities by law must always consider the least restrictive measures against asylum seekers. More experienced attorneys and staff in Ellebæk believes that the trials are being conducted on a assembly line basis and not involve the individual asylum seeker's personal circumstances. The Danish Red Cross has several examples of asylum seekers with mental disorders has been jailed in Ellebæk.

"We must emphasize that when an applicant get a place at an asylum center Kongelunden, it is because he is very vulnerable and fragile and need extra care and medical attention. We would therefore recommend that residents of an asylum center Kongelunden not be detained," said Anders Ladekarl, Secretary-General of the Danish Red Cross.

Indefinite detention has previously been criticized by the UN Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, who believes that it can constitute inhuman or degrading treatment when you do not know the duration of your imprisonment.
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