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Denmark agrees €15 million deal to rent prison cells in Kosovo

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By Josephine Joly  with AFP, AP
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A view of he 300-cell prison in Gjilan, 50 kilometers south east of the capital Pristina, Kosovo where Denmark's would run the new 300-cell facility, on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.
A view of he 300-cell prison in Gjilan, 50 kilometers south east of the capital Pristina, Kosovo where Denmark's would run the new 300-cell facility, on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP

Denmark has agreed on a deal to rent 300 jail cells in Kosovo to ease prison overcrowding in the Scandinavian country. 

The agreement, which saw the two countries sign a declaration of intent on Monday, will run for an initial period of five years, a joint statement said. Copenhagen will pay an annual fee of €15 million to rent the cells.

"There is a possibility of an automatic extension for the same period," it added.

Last week, Copenhagen indicated that prisoners sent to Kosovo will be foreigners subject to deportation after serving their sentences.

Since 2015, the prison population in Denmark jumped by nearly 20% and the number of prison guards dropped by the same proportion, causing issues with overcrowding.

The inmates will be sent to a prison in Gjilan – a town located some 50 kilometres from the capital Pristina, starting from 2023.

However, several NGOs monitoring the correctional system in Kosovo have expressed concern that transferring about 200 inmates to the Gjilan prison to make way for Danish prisoners would naturally overpopulate other prisons.

Kosovo's prison system has a capacity of up to 2,500 of which about 700-800 are still free.

A Danish warden will be expected to run the new 300-cell facility, accompanied by an Albanian one and other local staff. Danish laws will apply to the facility.

Some 350 inmates were expected to be deported by 2020, after completing their sentences in Danish prisons.

Previously, Norway and Belgium have rented prison cells in the Netherlands.

'A groundbreaking agreement'

Denmark's justice minister, Nick Haekkerup, said while signing a letter of intent with his Kosovo-Albanian counterpart Albulena Haxhiu that the deal would resolve his country's worrying issue of prison overpopulation.

"This is a groundbreaking agreement that will create real space in our prisons and ease the pressure on our prison officers," Haekkerup went on.

Haxhiu added that the Balkan country has between 700 and 800 unused prison spaces and stressed the "laws of Denmark will apply" when handling the prisoners in rented cells.

The signature of the letter of intent between the two ministers was the first step before the agreement is signed early next year and then ratified by both countries' parliaments.