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Danish MPs cancel visit to Nauru

Thursday 1 September 2016 | Published in Regional


Nauru denies visas to three members of delegation

NAURU – A Danish politician says the delegation she is travelling with has cancelled its visit to Nauru after the Nauru government said some members of the group were not welcome.

In a Facebook post, Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen said on Monday the Nauru government had moved to exclude three members of the delegation.

The 48-hour visit of the Danish Parliament’s Immigration Committee had been planned for some time, she said.

She and one of the other excluded politicians, Jacob Mark, had criticised Australia’s asylum seeker processing in the media, Schmidt Neilsen said.

But she said it was anybody’s guess why the other politician, Naser Khader, was excluded, without having criticised Nauru or Australia.

Schmidt Neilsen is from the Red-Green Alliance, Mark is a member of the Socialist People’s Party and Khader is from the Conservative People’s Party.

She said in her post that politicians from the Social Democratic Party, the Danish People’s Party and Denmark’s governing Liberal Party were told they were still welcome.

The Danish delegation cancelled the visit after Nauruan authorities announced on Wednesay that the decision to deny visas for the selected three MPs was final, she said.

The delegation had already met with Australian immigration officials while in Australia, and had planned to depart for Nauru on Tuesday to gain a rare glimpse on the Nauru detention facility.

The Guardian says that the delegation were given approval to visit the immigration processing centre in official correspondence with Australia and Nauru.

But their plans were thwarted when they arrived at Canberra airport on Tuesday to travel to Nauru via Brisbane and discovered three members of the delegation had been refused visas.

Schmidt-Nielsen posted on Facebook: “The Danish delegation as a whole then cancelled their visit to Nauru.

“The government of another country should not be able to pick out members of a Danish parliamentary delegation.

“Such an action is deeply undemocratic,” Schmidt-Neilsen said.

Mark told Radio Denmark he was amazed he was being denied access to camps controlled and run by Australia.

It was extremely undemocratic and he failed to understand how Australia could accept it, he said.

Danish foreign minister Kristian Jensen said he would fight for access for all the MPs to Nauru, adding that it was important to see the camps.

The trip was initially billed as a study tour of Australia’s policy of processing asylum seekers abroad.

It came amid a growing debate in Europe over whether to adopt Australia’s policy to deal with refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

Some far-right groups have urged the country to adopt a similar model to Australia’s system of offshore detention.

The Danish People’s party has suggested asylum seekers should be sent to Greenland or Tanzania as part of a similar offshore arrangement.

The decision to refuse the politicians visas is likely to intensity international scrutiny on Australia’s immigration detention system, following the publication of the Nauru files by the Guardian, and longstanding concerns over the secrecy of Australia’s detention regime.