Denmark Wants to Seize Jewelry and Cash from Refugees

Rick Noack, Washington Post, December 18, 2015

In recent months, Denmark has taken a fairly harsh stance toward refugees. In September, for example, authorities published an ad in Lebanese newspapers carrying an unmistakable message to foreigners who might think about seeking asylum: Don’t come to Denmark.

Now, the country is debating another and even more extreme step: The government is considering a law that would allow authorities to confiscate jewelry from refugees entering the country. The proposal is almost certain to pass Parliament.

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“The bill presented on 10 December 2015 provides the Danish authorities with the power to search clothes and luggage of asylum seekers–and other migrants without a permit to stay in Denmark–with a view to finding assets which may cover the expenses,” the Danish Ministry of Integration said in an email to The Washington Post.

The law would also impact refugees already in the country. It is included in an asylum policy bill that is expected to pass Parliament in January and would be set to take effect by next February. Police authorities would be allowed to seize valuables and cash amounts they deem expensive enough.

According to the Integration Ministry, “the new rule on seizure will only apply to assets of a considerable value.” Foreigners are expected to be able to “keep assets which are necessary to maintain a modest standard of living, e.g. watches and mobile phones. Furthermore, assets which have a certain personal, sentimental value to a foreigner will not, as a main rule, be seized unless they have [considerable] value.”

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The Danish Integration Ministry emphasized, however, that current rules already required refugees with sufficient financial means to pay for their stay themselves. Although the seized valuables are supposed to pay for refugee-related expenditures, the financial impact could be of less consequence. Experts say the Danish government is more interested in sending a message.

“Europe currently receives a very high number of refugees,” Denmark’s Integration Ministry defended the law. “Denmark does take a share. However, [too many refugees] put pressure on the Danish society and make it more difficult to ensure a successful integration of those who come to Denmark.”

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Critics say that Denmark has tried hard to portray itself as a destination few refugees would want to go to. Recently, the Danish government cut social benefits for refugees by up to 50 percent. {snip}

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