Denmark is set to transfer inmates from third party countries to 300 rented prison cells in Kosovo, as per a deal to be inked between the two countries early next week.
The implementation of the deal will likely continue for the next decade, with Denmark and Kosovo sharing the care and management of inmates from non-EU third countries who will be deported after completing their sentences.
Denmark is renting the prison cells from Kosovo for a sum of €15 million annually for an initial five years. Pristina says it will invest this money predominantly in renewable energy, as well as Kosovo’s own prison and justice system. The Kosovo Ministry of Justice has noted that the incoming inmates have not been classed as high risk, nor have they been convicted of terror offences or diagnosed with a terminal illness.
The Danish prison system suffers from both overcrowding and a drop in the number of prison guards: since 2015, the number of inmates has risen from 3,400 to 4,200, while the number of guards has slid from 2,500 to 2,000. Renting prison cells in other countries has been deemed the best solution by the current administration. A Danish team inspected Kosovo’s prisons in 2020, ahead of talks between the two governments.
“[The agreement with Kosovo] will create space in our prisons and ease the pressure on our prison officers at the same time as it also sends a clear signal to third-country nationals sentenced to deportation: Your future does not lie in Denmark, and you must therefore not serve time here,” said Danish Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup in a statement.
Activists in both countries have criticised the agreement, arguing that Denmark should not be banishing unwanted foreign prisoners to other countries, or far away from their families still in Denmark.
“We have done what we can to ensure that this is within the rules. The exact same rules will apply as for prisons in Denmark,” Haekkerup continued. “Deported convicts still be able to get visitors, although that will, of course, be difficult.”
Norway and Belgium have adopted a similar strategy in the past, renting prison cells in the Netherlands. Danish laws will apply to any prisoners in the rented prison cells in Kosovo.
Kosovo currently has between 700 and 800 unused prison spaces. The agreement with Denmark will need to be ratified by Kosovo’s parliament by a two-thirds majority.