Syrian refugees at the Budapest Keleti railway station in Budapest, Hungary, in September. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Denmark has adopted a harsh stance toward refugees over the last months. In September, for example, authorities published an ad in Lebanese newspapers carrying a clear message to foreigners who might think about seeking asylum: “Don’t come to Denmark.”

Now, the Danish government is proposing a law that would allow authorities to confiscate valuables such as jewelry from refugees entering the country. Commentators say the proposal is almost certain to pass.

The story began to circulate on news websites, with some readers dismissing it as a hoax, before it was picked up by international media.

“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.

From the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 News site:

Some commentators have defended Denmark for taking a tough line on asylum seekers, while critics – including politicians from the ruling party – have said the idea recalls the Nazi policy of stealing valuables from Jewish refugees and prisoners.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR told Channel 4 News the idea “beggars belief”.

Nevertheless, the Danish government has confirmed it published draft legislation on a range of new asylum initiatives, including “seizing valuable assets”, on 10 December.

More details will be thrashed out in parliamentary debate in January, but a new law is expected to come into force from February.

A Danish government spokesman said: “The Danish Immigration Service shall ensure that asylum seekers receive the necessary support while their asylum applications are being considered. The support includes basic maintenance, health care and accommodation.

“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 mentioned above.

“It is explicitly mentioned in the bill before Parliament that the new rule on seizure will only apply to assets of a considerable value. Thus, foreigners will always be able to keep assets which are necessary to maintain a modest standard of living, e.g watches and mobile phones.

“In other words, the general principle of a minimum amount exempt from execution also applies in this context.

“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. The proposed rule applies also to refugees already in the country.”

She said the new policy “follows from current rules that an asylum seeker, who brings sufficient means to take care of him- or herself, should not also receive support from the Immigration Service”.

Read more here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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