Bingzhi Zhu, a graduate student of the Environment and Development at the University of Copenhagen, has been imprisoned and deported from the country. She was deported on account of her student visa expiring and not being able to be renewed due to COVID-19 and holiday closures.
Zhu was getting ready to graduate in in August 2020, however, she was allowed to postpone handing in her thesis and her graduation util May 2021 due to COVID-19 and poor health at that time.
After realizing that her student visa was about to expire on 31 December 2020, she tried contacting the appropriate authorities in order to renew it. However, due to it being a holiday on 30 December 2020, the Danish Immigration Service’s Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) was closed. She was also required to submit a statement from the university of the reason that she was still in the country and when she intended to leave; she also could not complete this task due to the university being closed.
Zhu was able to partially complete the renewal process and paid the processing fee of 1,900 kroner, which has been verified by screenshots of the transaction, according to The Local DK.
On 5 January 2021, police went to the Absalon Hotel, where Zhu had been renting a student room, for the purpose of arresting her. They promptly detained her and transported her to Vestre Fængsel prison, later being admitted into the psychiatric departments in Amager and Bispebjerg hospitals.
She was ultimately transported to Ellebæk, a controversial detention center.
Ellebæk is used as a detention center for migrants who have not committed crimes other than being in the country illegally based on Denmark’s immigration laws.
The Ellebæk center has fallen under much scrutiny in recent years due to reports of mistreatment of detainees, with the center even being investigated and scrutinized by the European Council’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).
The Committee, in their report, said that Ellebæk was one of the worst detention centers of its kind in Europe on account of its prison-like conditions and the staff’s abuse of residents.
Zhu claims to have been treated poorly while in Ellebæk, being verbally humiliated, threated, and pushed by staff. In addition, she claims to have been kept in isolation without warm clothes.
According to Zhu, most staff refused to call Chinese detainees by their Chinese names, instead referring to them as “China 1” and “China 2.”
Zhu’s claims are being investigated and verified.
The graduate student was later deported back to China, where she began contacting media in Denmark and Europe to bring attention to her situation that she had found herself in after paying huge amounts of money for tuition and fees at her university, and riding out the COVID-19 pandemic in Denmark to finish her studies.
“I’m a 24-year-old graduate student who paid a huge amount of tuition fees in Denmark, but I have now been in prison, a psychiatric center and at a deportation center,” said Zhu.
She later called Ellebæk “a jail and a hell.”
“Everyone in Denmark should know what happens here. I would rather be in prison or on the psychiatric hospital ward,” Zhu concluded.