Danish MP suggests shooting at migrant boats in Mediterranean

Danish MP suggests shooting at migrant boats in Mediterranean
In a televised debate shown on Tuesday, Danish MP Kenneth Kristensen Berth suggested that migrant boats that stray too close to European waters should be “shot at.” A fierce backlash is now forcing him to backtrack.

Berth, a member of the populist Danish People’s Party, made the remarks while taking part in a debate on immigration with the Danish European Movement Chairwoman Stine Bosse. At one point in the conversation, Berth suggested that harsher measures be taken against migrant boats coming across the Mediterranean Sea.

“The only way you can do it effectively is simply to turn the boats away and say ‘You can’t sail within this national border and if you do, you will either be shot at or be turned around and sailed back,’” he said on the show.

In response, host Ole Stephensen asked Berth to clarify if he really meant that boats full of refugees and asylum seekers should be fired upon.

“Just so I can understand if what I am hearing is true, you really want a fairly stringent rule that states that if they come in above a certain mile limit, you have to shoot at them?” Stephensen asked.

“For example,” Berth replied. “We need to do what is necessary to ensure that the border is not violated.”

Berth’s statement shocked his fellow panelists.

“You cannot stand here and say that they be shot in the Mediterranean. I simply refuse to believe it,” his debate opponent Bosse said.

The debate, which was filmed on Monday, was broadcast on the talk show ‘Europa Magasinet’ on dk4 TV. On Wednesday, sensing an imminent media storm, Berth posted on Facebook claiming he was not talking about shooting at the boats, but firing warning shots in their direction.

“Just to address a coming press storm,” he wrote, “I of course don’t mean that a ship under the command of NATO or Frontex [the European border agency] should shoot at migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean. What I mean is that warning shots should be fired at a vessel that is crossing into European territorial waters!"

“This to mark that you are moving into a territory where you don't have the right to be. We need to regain control of the European border.”

However, Berth’s comments had already been seized upon by other politicians. Carolina Magdalene Maier of the left-wing Alternative Party described the remarks as “beneath contempt.”

“Can someone elected to the Danish parliament afford – indeed, even encourage – that you shoot at other people?” she wrote on Facebook. “Is there anywhere else – except with Trump in the US?”

“Of course you don't shoot at people who are fleeing. It shouldn't be necessary to say,” said Mette Frederiksen of the opposition Social Democrats.

Jakob Ellemann-Jensen of the ruling Venstre party also took to social media to express his concern.

“Warning shots are – as the word weakly indicates – a warning of what’s to follow,” he tweeted. “And what follows next is violence. It's not OK!”

A spokesman for the Danish People's Party later told Reuters that shooting at asylum seekers is not the official party policy.

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The Danish People's Party won 21 percent of the popular vote in last year's general election, making it the second-largest party after the left-wing Social Democrats. Berth, the party’s EU spokesman, was a vocal supporter of the controversial ‘jewelry bill’ passed earlier this year. The bill allows the authorities to take cash and other valuables from asylum seekers to help pay for their stay.

Denmark, along with other EU countries, is trying to deal with a huge influx of migrants and refugees that has led to concerns about integration and the rise of nationalist parties.