13 Jan 2016

Danish MPs debate seizing refugees’ valuables

The Danish parliament is debating a bill which would allow police to seize migrants’ valuables to pay for their stay in asylum centres.

Migrants and refugees in Denmark

Yesterday, the controversial proposed law was amended after massive criticism from the Social Democratic Party, among others.

Under the first draft of what Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen called the “most misunderstood bill in Denmark’s history”, migrants would have been entitled to keep only cash and valuables worth around 400 euros.

But in the face of an international backlash – and comparisons to Nazi Germany’s seizing of gold and valuables from Jews during World War II – Integration Minister Inger Stojberg said the total sum would be increased to 1,300 euros.

Alongside this, items for personal use, such as mobile phones and watches and well as items of sentimental value such as wedding and engagement rings, family portraits, and badges of honour, will be exempted, the ministry said in a statement.

After the change the Social Democratic Party has said it will support the bill when a vote is held. This is expected later this month.

‘Majority support’

The centre-right minority government has defended the bill, arguing that Danish nationals seeking welfare handouts can expect similar treatment.

“It is already the case that if you as a Dane have valuables for more than 10,000 kroner (1,340 euros) it may be required that this is sold before you can receive unemployment benefits,” Mr Stojberg said last month.

The proposed law is the latest in a string of moves by Copenhagen to avoid the kind of refugee influx seen in neighbouring Sweden, where around 150,000 people had applied for asylum by the end of November 2015 compared to just 18,000 in Denmark.

‘It’s a principle which must apply as much to asylum seekers as it applies to Danes’

Other measures have included shortening residence permits, delaying family reunifications and placing adverts in Lebanese newspapers to deter migrants.

“In Denmark, if one can manage on one’s own, one manages on one’s own. It’s a principle which must apply as much to asylum seekers as it applies to Danes,” Mr Stojberg said on Friday.

Despite international criticism, the country’s far-right Danish People’s Party, the Liberal Alliance, and the Conservative People’s Party have reached an agreement on the bill, meaning it enjoys the support of the majority of the parties in the Danish parliament.