Denmark’s absurd law on refugees

The passage of a law by the Danish Parliament that allows the authorities to > confiscate valuables from refugees is the latest blow to those seeking asylum in Europe. Denmark’s centre-right government says the legislation is intended to cover the cost of each asylum-seeker’s treatment by the state, and bring refugees in line with unemployed Danes who also have to give up their savings before they receive welfare benefits. But the reality is starker than what the government claims. The Danish move is in line with the hawkish stand several > European governments are taking towards asylum-seekers. Earlier in the month, Switzerland started seizing valuables from refugees to help pay for their “upkeep”. Last week, Germany’s southern states, including Bavaria, adopted similar policies. Most of those seeking asylum in Europe are fleeing war, mass crimes and rapes. Some of them make perilous boat journeys across the Mediterranean to reach the shores of Europe. Some pay huge sums to people smugglers to get themselves out of their war-devastated nations. And they go to Europe seeing the relatively prosperous and secure continent as their last hope to find a place to rebuild their shattered lives. These are the people the European governments are seizing valuables from.

Yet, these moves are not surprising given the response of several European leaders to the refugee crisis. To be sure, > Europe is facing the biggest migrant crisis since the Second World War. In 2015 alone, more than 850,000 asylum-seekers landed in Greece, from where most of them moved to other European countries through the open borders. But instead of coming up with a bold pan-European plan to address the issue, the European leadership let member-states have their way. > Hungary has already sealed its boundaries to stop the entry of refugees. The Hungarian Prime Minister has, in fact, given a call to wall off Greece from the rest of Europe to prevent the movement of refugees. Several Balkan leaders have recently demanded the same. How can confiscating assets from the already vulnerable refugees and blocking them at the borders help address one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time? How can Europe, known for its human rights-driven, combative foreign policy, treat the victims of wars as mere intruders? Besides the ethical arguments, Europe also bears some amount of direct responsibility in this crisis. Most of the refugees reaching the continent are fleeing Syria and Libya. In Syria, besides helping rebels in the civil war that has destabilised the country, European nations, particularly France and Britain, are waging a bombing campaign. In Libya, France was in the forefront of an invasion that has thrown the country into chaos. And when the people fleeing these countries reach its shores, Europe cannot just turn its back on them. Instead of building walls and seizing assets from the refugees, what Europe actually needs is an effective resettlement plan at home, while pushing for peace and stability in the war-hit countries.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 12:27:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/Denmark%E2%80%99s-absurd-law-on-refugees/article14024721.ece

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