News / Europe

    Denmark Approves Controversial Migrant Bill

    Denmark's Minister of Immigration and Integration Inger Stojberg listens to the debate in the Danish Parliament, Jan. 26, 2016.
    Denmark's Minister of Immigration and Integration Inger Stojberg listens to the debate in the Danish Parliament, Jan. 26, 2016.
    VOA News

    Denmark's parliament has passed new laws aimed at deterring people from seeking asylum there, in a move that has sparked widespread condemnation.

    After more than three hours of debate Tuesday, lawmakers overwhelming passed the so-called "jewelry bill" that allows authorities to  seize asylum-seekers' property valued at more than $1,450.  Items of special emotional value such as wedding rings will be exempt.  Some critics likened the decision to the Nazis' confiscation of valuables from Jews during the Holocaust.  Another provision calls for the asylum seekers to wait three years, instead of one, before they can apply to be reunited with their families.

    The bill is the latest attempt by Denmark's seven-month-old, minority center-right government to discourage the migration of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.  The Scandinavian country took in a record 20,000 asylum-seekers last year.

    In reacting to the Danish parliament's decision, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric issued a statement that read, in part, "Our reaction would be that people who have suffered tremendously - who have escaped war and conflict, who have literally walked hundreds, if not thousands, hundreds of kilometers if not more, who put their lives at risk crossing the Mediterranean - should be treated with compassion and respect and within their full rights as refugees as called [for] by the 1951 [refugee] convention."

    The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, also described the bill as inconsistent with European Union policies.
     

    FILE - A new migrant reception camp is seen in Vordingborg, 100 km south of Copenhagen, Denmark, Nov. 26, 2015. The camp has the capacity to hold up to 2,000 people.
    FILE - A new migrant reception camp is seen in Vordingborg, 100 km south of Copenhagen, Denmark, Nov. 26, 2015. The camp has the capacity to hold up to 2,000 people.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Speaking to reporters in Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said the bill comes at a time “when the need for solidarity and responsibility-sharing at the EU level really is the first priority."

    "The decision to give Danish police the authority to search and confiscate valuables from asylum seekers sends damaging messages in our view; it runs the risk of fueling sentiments of fear and discrimination rather than promoting solidarity with people in need of protection.  On the limited access to family reunification, we just remind people of the point that family unity is a fundamental principle in international law," said Edwards.

    Last week, human rights group Amnesty International urged the Danish parliament to reject what Amnesty called "cruel and regressive changes to refugee law."  Amnesty's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, Gauri van Gulik, said, "It’s simply cruel to force people who are running from conflicts to make an impossible choice: either bring children and other loved ones on dangerous, even lethal journeys, or leave them behind and face a prolonged separation while family members continue to suffer the horrors of war."

    Denmark is not the only place targeting refugee possessions. Switzerland has started taking valuables worth more than $985, while the German state of Baden-Württemberg secures valuables above $380.  Other areas in southern Europe have been reported to follow a similar practice.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: CEH from: USA
    January 27, 2016 8:21 AM
    The NYT notes that Danish citizens possessing property valued over $1500 (10,000 kroner) are not allowed to receive social benefits. Hence Denmark is applying similar limits of personal possession towards immigrants whose room and board Denmark will be paying while they apply for asylum as they do for their own citizens applying for social benefits.

    by: Pay your Fair Share from: USA
    January 26, 2016 7:36 PM
    If these people are really refugees fleeing destruction, their first thought should be to get to safety with their family. If they bring valuables with them, that should be taken into account if they want the host country to take care of all of their needs at the cost of the citizens. In the US if you receive public assistance (medicaid, disability) they cap the worth of your possessions, you can't have more than a minimal amount in your bank account (if you have one), no savings account allowed. You can't own a home, if you live with relatives or have a room in someones home they count that as part of your "income". You have to report any change in earnings or money received. Your situation must be reviewed yearly to see if you still qualify and have a need or if you can make it on your own. If citizens have to comply with these rules, why shouldn't everyone have to comply when they choose to move to countries based on which ones can give them the most lucrative benefits?

    by: Enthusiast from: Aurora, Colorado
    January 26, 2016 6:52 PM
    Have the courage to send them back home.

    by: Peter HUang from: USA
    January 26, 2016 5:32 PM
    They come with belongings able to support themselves more or less and reduce burden to worry Denmark why not welcome. What is the matter to their valuable items with them and want to forfeit?

    by: Mike in Maine from: Northern Maine
    January 26, 2016 1:30 PM
    "First they came for the Trade Unionists. Then they came for the clergy". Sound familiar ?

    by: Hovhannes from: Montevideo
    January 26, 2016 12:49 PM
    Shame on Denmark. Shame on Europe.

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