Immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye has defended the government’s decision to evacuate a woman and her children from a prison camp in Syria after it emerged the woman was a dual national, and therefore ostensibly not eligible for rescue under government policy.
Government policy is to refuse to repatriate anyone with dual nationality if they are in the camps, which are used to accommodate former Isis militants and sympathisers such as spouses, and their children. Only women with no other citizenship than Danish are considered for repatriation by the government.
After broadcaster DR earlier reported that one woman with dual citizenship was allowed to return to Denmark, while four others must remain at the camps, the lawyer for the women accused the government of double standards.
“The entire primary argument of the government is gone. You can’t say that one person with dual citizenship is okay to come home while others can’t,” the lawyer, Knud Foldschack, told DR.
Tesfaye subsequently defended the decision as criticism of the government by conservative parties began to mount.
“We are in a situation here where we are making an exception because there are some special circumstances in this case,” Tesfaye told DR.
“We are dealing with the evacuation of children. The evacuation is imminent,” he added.
Tesfaye was referring specifically to the planned evacuation of three women and 14 children from detention camps in Syria, of which the dual national in question is one of the three women.
The minister did not elaborate on the “special circumstances” that apply in the woman’s case.
In May this year, the government said it would evacuate women and children with Danish nationality from the Al-Hol and Al-Roj camps in northeastern Syria, reversing a longstanding stance in which it declined to extract them from the camps.
A further five children with connection to Denmark are also slated to be evacuated to Denmark, but without their mothers, who have had their Danish citizenships withdrawn. However, the mothers are required to give their permission and therefore allow themselves to be separated from their children in order that they be rescued.
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Conservative parties argue that the woman in question should have been stripped of her Danish citizenship like the latter group of women, preventing her return to Denmark.
The woman has seven children, according to reports by DR and newspaper Ekstra Bladet.
Tesfaye also noted that the Danish policy security service PET did not have any security-related objections to repatriating the woman.