Denmark wants to seize jewelry and cash from refugees

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.

Denmark wants to seize jewelry and cash from refugees

“It is pretty telling about the current Danish policies that [some] are not quite sure whether this is a hoax or not,” said Zachary Whyte, an asylum and integration researcher at the University of Copenhagen. In this case, it’s real.

“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.”

There were discrepancies in how the two main political parties are interpreting the proposed law. “Absurdly, the minister of justice initially explained the law on television by saying that it would apply to a hypothetical asylum seeker arriving with a suitcase full of diamonds. This prompted the Danish People’s Party to point out that items of smaller value should also be impounded,” Whyte said.

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