Sunday

19th Jan 2020

Danish plan to seize refugees' jewellery prompts controversy

  • Asylum seekers in Sweden: scenes the Danish government would like to avoid (Photo: atranswe)

Denmark’s minority government has come under fire for plans to seize migrants' valuables to cover the costs of their stay in the country and to dissuade others from coming.

An online petition against the initiative entitled "No to the confiscation of migrants' valuables" had garnered almost 15,000 signatures by Tuesday (22 December).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

The proposed measure was likened to the Nazi’s treatment of Jews in the second world war and has prompted an MEP to quit the ruling party.

The government’s proposal, part of a bigger asylum package presented to the parliament on 10 December, states that normally watches and mobile phones should not be seized, but cash above 3,000 Danish kroner (€436) and jewels can be confiscated.

The proposed bill allows police to search the clothes and luggage of asylum seekers - and other migrants without a permit to stay in Denmark - with a view to finding assets.

If a migrant choses to withdraw the application for asylum, the valuables should be returned. If the asylum seeker becomes well-to-do after international protection was granted, the new valuables can also be seized.

Valuables with “certain personal, sentimental value to a foreigner will not, as a main rule, be seized,” the proposal notes.

However, they may be taken away if, taking into account the degree of personal, sentimental value and the economic value of the assets, “it is deemed inappropriate not to seize the assets.”

Most asylum seekers sell everything back home to make the dangerous journey to Europe, but are often viewed in Europe with suspicion for having smart phones.

Meanwhile, Danish police have themselves rejected the government idea.

“I can't imagine that we would go in and take away, for example wedding rings from refugees who come to the country,” the chairman of the Police Federation, Claus Oxfeldt told Denmarks Radio.

He said it is not the job of police officers to assess the value of, for example refugees’ clothing or jewellery.

“We are not able to assess whether a ring has a value of 1,000, 5,000 or 10,000 [Danish] kroner,” said Claus Oxfeldt.

However, the Danish minister for integration said the principle of the proposal also applies to Danes.

“There is no reason to criticise, since it is already the case that if you as a Dane have valuables for more than 10,000 kroner (€1,340) it may be required that this is sold before you can receive benefits,” Inger Stojberg was quoted as saying by AFP.

The planned measure is supported by the populist, anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DPP), which backs the centre-right minority government, and which says the move is aimed at stopping people from coming to Denmark.

"The signal is important. Basically we are saying that if you want to come to Europe you should stay clear of Denmark because we have a lot of problems with migrants and ... we don't need any more in Denmark," Martin Henriksen of the Danish People's Party (DPP) told AFP.

The bill will be voted on in January in the 179-seat parliament, and would come into force in February.

A Danish MEP already left the ruling party in protest.

"Denmark is currently experiencing a norm and value shift that I find deeply worrying," Jens Rohde of the Venstre party wrote on the website of daily Politiken. He is joining the centrist Danish Social Liberal Party.

The proposal is the latest attempt by Copenhagen to avoid the kind of refugee influx seen in neighbouring Sweden, where 150,000 people applied for asylum this year.

Other measures include shortening residence permits, delaying family reunifications, and placing ads in Lebanese newspapers to deter migrants.

Denmark expects to receive around 20,000 asylum seekers this year, compared to 15,000 last year. In total 5.039 persons applied for asylum in November 2015, the highest number in any month of the year, official figures released on Monday showed.

Earlier this month, Danes voted in a referendum to reject a government proposal on adopting the EU's justice rules.

Sweden reintroduces border controls

Sweden becomes fourth EU and Schengen state to introduce emergency border controls, citing overwhelming migrant numbers. Denmark could be next.

Sweden to tap Hungary's EU relocation quota

Sweden, which hosts the most asylum seekers per capita, has asked other EU states to relocate some people under a quota originally designed for Hungary.

EU aid pushing Libyan refugees back to war-hit Libya

At least 17 Libyans were returned to their war-torn country after attempting to flee on boats towards Europe. Their fates, along with many others, remain unknown as the EU-backed Libyan Coast Guard sweeps up people en masse.

Erdogan warns Europe of new migration crisis

Turkey's president Erdogan said more violence in the north-western Syrian province of Idlib would trigger a new migration crisis "felt by all European countries."

News in Brief

  1. 'No objection in principle' on Huawei cooperation, EU says
  2. French aircraft carrier goes to Middle East amid tensions
  3. EU suggests temporary ban on facial recognition
  4. EU industry cries foul on Chinese restrictions
  5. 'Devil in detail', EU warns on US-China trade deal
  6. Trump threatened EU-tariffs over Iran, Germany confirms
  7. EU trade commissioner warns UK of 'brinkmanship'
  8. Germany strikes coal phase-out deal

Interview

EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration

Europe's obsession with migration from Africa means it risks losing out the continent's potential when it comes to trade, says the EU's ambassador to the African Union, Ranier Sabatucci. "Africa is a growing continent, it is the future," he says.

Feature

Malmo, a segregated city - separating fact from fiction

Despite the neighbourhood's beautiful name, the reputation of Rosengård (Rose Garden) does not so much evoke images of roses as headlines of crime and social challenges. This area of Malmö has been struggling with its notorious, mythical, image for years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us