Danish MPs vote to confiscate asylum seekers' belongings 'to pay for upkeep'
Published 27/01/2016 | 02:30
The Danish parliament has voted in favour of controversial plans to confiscate asylum seekers' personal possessions in order to pay for their upkeep.
The Danish authorities say the policy would treat migrants and refugees in the same way as the country's unemployed, who must sell assets above a certain value before they can receive benefits. But the proposals have drawn widespread condemnation from human rights groups, while some Danish critics have likened it to the confiscation of valuables from Jews during World War Two.
Danish MPs had been expected to vote in favour of the plans, which would also delay refugees' family reunions.
Integration Minister Inger Stoejberg has insisted that none of the items taken from refugees would be of sentimental value.
But Amnesty Denmark said the law reflected how the government's main priority was to deter asylum seekers from coming to the country in the first place.
"Our concern is that the new rule would seek to prevent the reunion of refugee families for up to three years," Claus Juul, senior legal adviser at Amnesty Denmark said.
"The real objective of this law is stop Denmark from appearing as an attractive country to asylum seekers.
"It is meant to make refugees go to other countries instead, because the message it sends is that if you really want to come to Denmark then you will have to wait up to three years before you can see your family.
"The proposal to make asylum seekers give up their valuables has backfired for the government, because the general public found that it was reminiscent of Nazi Germany - and that this provision really just serves to amplify the message: 'You do not want to seek asylum in Denmark'."
The law would apply to cash or assets of up to 10,000 kroner (€1,500).
"The tone in the public debate about refugees and immigrants has undoubtedly become tougher," Kashif Ahmad, the leader of Denmark's National Party said.
Denmark received 20,000 migrants and refugees last year, while Germany received 1.1 million and Sweden 163,000.
Polling suggests up to 70pc of the Danish public see the number of migrants entering the country as its most pressing issue.
"I wouldn't say that I have become racist or anything," Poul Madsen, a taxi driver, said before the bill was debated.
"But I may be more aware of the fact that this has some downsides and may be a potential problem for our society and our economy."