Law Squirrel

Denmark Approves Controversial Law to Confiscate Asylum Seekers’ Assets

Denmark PoliceA controversial law has been approved by the Danish parliament, allowing police to confiscate any valuables that asylum seekers have brought with them into the country. Danish MPs say that the measure, which has received widespread and international condemnation from human rights groups, is designed to help cover housing and food costs.

The bill empowers police to seize personal possessions belonging to refugees above a total value of 10,000 kroner (£1,021). Originally, the bill would only have allowed refugees to keep personal possessions worth up to 3,000 kroner (£306), but this was raised to the current level in response to early objections to the proposals. Certain items of significant sentimental value, such as wedding rings, will be exempt from the new law.

Danish MPs also approved plans that will delay asylum seekers from being reunited with family members. Previously, those seeking asylum in Denmark had to wait for a period of one year before they could apply to have their relatives join them. Now, this period has been extended to three years.

The introduction of this law has been heavily criticised by independent human rights bodies as well as important political figures. A spokesperson for the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said: “People who have suffered tremendously, who have escaped war and conflict, who’ve literally walked hundreds of kilometres if not more and put their lives at risk by crossing the Mediterranean should be treated with compassion and respect, and within their full rights as refugees.”

Others have claimed that the new law is dehumanising, and compared it to the way valuables were confiscated from the Jewish people under the rule of the Nazis in 1930-40s Germany.

The government has claimed that the new law serves only to bring the rights of refugees in line with those of unemployed Danish citizens, who have also been squeezed in the past several years. Denmark’s unemployed can face the prospect of being forced to sell off any assets they hold above a certain value before they are entitled to claim state benefits. However, critics of the law have pointed out that the new law proposes active and detailed searches of refugees of a kind that unemployed Danes would never face. Furthermore, many Danes take out insurance policies that prevent them from having to sell their possessions if they become unemployed; something the refugees have never had an opportunity to access.

The new laws were the subject of a prolonged and heated debate in the Danish parliament. Ultimately, they were approved by 81 votes to 27 with one abstention and 70 MPs absent.

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