Denmark votes to seize migrant assets to cover costs
So-called jewelry bill will allow asylum-seekers keep assets worth less than $2,000
The Danish parliament has passed a bill to confiscate valuables from asylum-seekers to help pay for their stay despite criticism from human rights groups, media reports say.
The so-called jewelry bill — part of several measures aimed at deterring refugees — would allow police to seize cash and other possessions worth more than 10,000 Danish kroner ($2,000 Cdn).
Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen called the proposals the "most misunderstood bill in Denmark's history" in the wake of international criticism, the Independent reported.
The measures, which also include delaying family reunification to three years, are the latest sign that the Nordic welcome for refugees is waning as large numbers flee war in Africa and the Middle East in what is becoming Europe's biggest migrant crisis in decades.
The United Nations refugee agency said it was "concerned" about the new measures.
"It relates to a number of things — including reduce social benefits, restrictive access to family unification — and this at a time when the need for solidarity and responsibility-sharing at the EU level really is the first priority," spokesman Adrian Edwards told a news briefing in Geneva.
He added: "The decision to give Danish police the authority to search and confiscate valuables from asylum-seekers sends damaging messages, in our view. It runs the risk of fuelling sentiments of fear and discrimination rather than promoting solidarity with people in need of protection.
"On the limited access to family reunification, we just remind people of the point that family unity is a fundamental principle in international law."
Under the bill, refugees keep possessions amounting to 10,000 Danish kroner ($2,000 Cdn), raised from 3,000 kroner ($600 Cdn) after criticism from human rights organizations. Valuables of special emotional value such as wedding rings would be exempt.
Denmark is not the only country targeting refugee possessions.
Switzerland has started taking valuables worth more than 1,000 Swiss francs ($1,500 Cdn), the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg secures valuables above 350 euros ($540 Cdn), while other southern states have been reported to do the same.
"We are in an improved situation in some senses at this point vis-a-vis where we were last year, but if half the measures that the EU and heads of state and others — that they'd agreed on — had been implemented by now, we would be in an improved situation still," Edwards said.
With files from CBC News