European elections: Foreign prisoner debate in Denmark

Jeppe Kofod, of Denmark's Social Democrats

Immigrants are an election issue in Denmark.

The anti-immigrant Danish People's Party is expected to be the biggest winner at the European election this weekend.

And now the lead candidate for the centre-left Social Democrat party, Jeppe Kofod, is focusing on immigrant criminals. He wants to reduce the cost of housing and feeding foreign prisoners.

He has accused Eastern European countries of shirking their responsibilities over accepting back criminals who commit crimes abroad.

Under an agreement signed by all EU countries in 2008, prisoners should be returned to serve their sentences at home. But, according to Mr Kofod, several Eastern European countries are not sticking to the deal.

It is estimated that there are nearly 400 Eastern Europeans in Danish jails, making up almost 10% of the prison population.

It is an 18% increase since 2011.

Each prisoner costs about 1,800 krone (£196; 241 euros) a day whereas the price of a day in a Romanian cell approximates to 120 krone.

The annual burden for Denmark is 250m krone.

"I would propose a bill insisting that countries accept their own nationals," says Mr Kofod.

His proposal would force countries that fail to exchange prisoners to pay for housing their citizens in other countries. He believes this will encourage states to honour the existing agreement.

The suggestion is a populist move which might appeal to disenchanted Social Democrat voters, who have favoured the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party.

Kofod denies that it is designed to lure people away from the DPP.

The Social Democrats, who dominate Denmark's governing coalition, are lagging third in the latest opinion polls, behind the right-of-centre Liberals in second place, and the DPP in first.

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