Denmark: bill allowing seizure of migrants’ valuables passed

Denmark’s Minister of Immigration and Integration Inger Stojberg during the debate in Copenhagen on Tuesday. —PHOTO: AFP  

Denmark’s Parliament on Tuesday adopted reforms aimed at dissuading migrants from seeking asylum by delaying family reunifications and allowing authorities to seize their valuables, under legislation that has sparked widespread condemnation.

The government insists the law is needed to stem the flow of refugees even though Denmark and Sweden recently tightened their borders, a move that prompted Germany and Austria to turn back new arrivals heading for Scandinavia.

The bill presented by the right-wing minority government of Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen was approved by a huge majority of 81 of the 109 lawmakers present, as members of the opposition Social Democrats backed the measures. International outrage has focused on plans to allow police to seize cash and valuables from refugees to help pay for their stay in asylum centres, while rights activists have blasted a proposed three-year delay for family reunifications which they say breaches international conventions.

Denmark’s minority government backtracked on parts of the plan to confiscate migrants’ valuables in order to secure backing for the bill from two small right-wing parties and the opposition Social Democrats. Asylum seekers will now have to hand over cash exceeding 10,000 kroner ( $1,450) and any individual items valued at more than that amount, up from the initial 3,000 kroner proposed.

Home to 5.6 million people, Denmark registered 21,000 asylum applications in 2015, making it one of the top EU destinations per capita. Criticism had mounted ahead of Tuesday’s vote, with the UN refugee agency UNHCR claiming the bill violated several conventions on rights and refugees. — AFP