Denmark plans to force asylum-seekers to hand over valuables

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Hoping to diminish Denmark's appeal to migrants, the country's government plans to force asylum-seekers to hand over any valuables worth more than $1,500 to help cover their housing and food costs while their cases are being processed.

See Full Article

The center-right government's proposal is expected to be approved by Parliament this month despite outrage from human rights activists who say it's a cruel and degrading way to treat people who have fled war and misery.

While noting the rules would be no different from those that apply to Danes receiving welfare benefits, government officials are candid about the purpose: persuading migrants to go somewhere else.

"Denmark must become significantly less attractive for asylum-seekers," Immigration Minister Inger Stoejberg said Wednesday during the first of three readings of the bill in Parliament. She said fewer refugees would mean better opportunities to integrate immigrants who are already in Denmark.

Compared with its neighbors, the nation of 5.6 million people wedged between Germany and Sweden received a small part of Europe's migrant flow last year. About 20,000 people applied for asylum in Denmark, while 1.1 million did so in Germany and 163,000 in Sweden.

Danish officials have said the welcoming attitudes in those countries could put pressure on their welfare systems and lead to social unrest.

Their hard line has not been lost on many of the thousands of Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis and others who see Denmark only as a transit point to reach other Nordic countries.

"Will they take gold teeth, too?" said Rami Nayil, a 39-year-old Syrian who applied for asylum in Denmark after new border controls prevented him from reaching Sweden.

The proposal wouldn't apply to dental fillings or valuables "with a sentimental value," such as wedding and engagement rings. The government has not issued a list of the high-value items that could be seized but made it clear that smartphones would not be taken.

Denmark is not the only country taking such action. Switzerland requires asylum-seekers to hand over cash of more than 1,000 francs ($996). Lea Wertheimer, spokeswoman for the State Secretariat for Migration, said the rule only affected 112 out of 45,000 refugees last year and brought in 210,000 francs.

She said the money is used to cover refugees' upkeep, and stressed similar rules require Swiss citizens to repay welfare benefits when they're able.

The Danish plan is expected to pass because the opposition Social Democrats endorsed it after some amendments were made, including raising the value of items the asylum-seekers can keep from 3,000 kroner ($440) to 10,000 kroner ($1,500). That brings it in line with welfare rules for Danes, who must sell assets worth more than 10,000 kroner before they can receive social benefits.

William Spindler, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, criticized the plan, saying refugees entering Europe on rickety boats have often lost their homes, jobs, most of their belongings and sometimes family members.

"It is hard to believe that Denmark is seriously considering taking away from them the few belongings that they have managed to take with them," he said.

Michala C. Bendixen, of Refugees Welcome, a group counseling and supporting refugees, said any income from seizing valuables wouldn't go very far in covering the 200,000-kroner ($29,000) annual cost of an asylum-seeker in Denmark.

"The real message here is to scare people away," she said.

The proposal is part of a raft of measures that also include extending the reunification time period after which family members outside could join a refugee in the country from one year to three years.

Jonas Christoffersen, head of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, said the latter could be a violation of international conventions. "Everyone has the right to a family life," he said.

Some Liberal Party members have quit the party in protest against its tough line on migrants and others have warned that Denmark's reputation is taking a pounding.

Still, many Danes approve of the new rules.

"I think many come here for the large benefits, so this is a way for them to pay at the entrance," said Susanne Petersen, a 46-year-old bank clerk. "They do cost society some money."

Denmark already tightened its immigration laws in 2002 and adopted new restrictions last year, reducing benefits for asylum-seekers, shortening temporary residence permits and stepping up efforts to deport those whose applications are rejected.

To make sure the message reached large numbers of people who had fled from Syria to neighboring countries, the government posted advertisements in Lebanese newspapers with information about the Danish restrictions.

Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen last month floated the idea of revising the 1951 U.N. convention on refugees, if Europe's migrant crisis continues this year. He offered no specific proposals.

Asylum-seekers gathered at Copenhagen's downtown train station were aware of the new proposals. Syrian Hamid al-Arbil said he was disappointed at how Denmark and other European countries treat people fleeing war.

"We are desperate but they close their doors," he said.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • G7 summit ends without unanimity on climate deal

    World News CTV News
    A summit of the leaders of the world's wealthiest democracies has ended without a unanimous agreement on climate change, as the Trump administration plans to take more time to say whether the U.S. is going to remain in the Paris climate deal. Source
  • Philippine forces hit militants; civilians wave white flags

    World News CTV News
    MARAWI, Philippines -- Philippine fighter aircraft unleashed rocket fire against militants on Saturday, prompting villagers to hoist white flags to avoid being targeted as the military turned to airstrikes to try to end the siege of a southern city by Islamic State group-allied militants. Source
  • Death toll in Egypt attack on Christians rises to 29

    World News CTV News
    CAIRO -- The death toll in the attack by gunmen on a bus transporting Christians to a monastery south of Cairo rose to 29, Egyptian authorities said Saturday. The Egyptian Cabinet said in a news release that 13 victims of Friday's attack remained hospitalized in Cairo and the southern province of Minya where the attack took place. Source
  • ISIS claims responsibility for attack on Egyptian Christians

    World News CTV News
    MINYA, Egypt -- The Islamic State group on Saturday claimed responsibility for the attack on a bus carrying Christians on their way to a remote desert monastery south of the Egyptian capital, Cairo, which killed 29. Source
  • U.K. lowers terror threat level to 'severe' as more arrested

    World News CTV News
    MANCHESTER, England -- Britain reduced its terrorism threat level a notch, from "critical" to "severe," as authorities said major progress has been made in unravelling the plot behind the Manchester bombing. Prime Minister Theresa May said "a significant amount of police activity" and several arrests had led to the level being lowered. Source
  • ISIS claims responsibility for deadly shooting on Coptic Christians in Egypt

    World News CBC News
    The group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) said on Saturday that its fighters were responsible for a shooting that killed dozens of Egyptian Christians on Friday, according to a statement from the group. Source
  • U.S. backs call for fight against protectionism in G7 communique

    World News CBC News
    U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to include a pledge to fight trade protectionism in a final communique due to be released later on Saturday at the end of a summit of Group of Seven leaders, a G7 source said. Source
  • N.S. party leaders stick to familiar scripts in campaign's final days

    Canada News CBC News
    The final Friday of this provincial election campaign was as illustrative as any of what each party leader wants voters thinking about as they prepare to cast their ballots. Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil started his morning at the office of a company that specializes in virtual reality flight simulation. Source
  • 11 arrests total in Manchester bomb investigation

    World News CBC News
    Police arrested two more suspects Saturday over the deadly Manchester concert bombing, as Britons began a sunny holiday long weekend under heightened security. Greater Manchester Police said two men, aged 20 and 22, were detained early Saturday in the northwest England city on suspicion of terrorism offences. Source
  • 5 things to watch for in today's Conservative leadership result

    Canada News CBC News
    After a year of campaigning, it's mostly over but the counting for the 13 candidates in the Conservative leadership race.Listen to CBC Radio's The House: Conservatives make their choiceFollow CBC's live coverage of the Conservative leadership conventionConservative leadership candidates lay out vision for party in final speechesAs the final few votes are cast in person and the tabulation machines set to work Saturday, here's what to watch for when the results are revealed at 5 p.m. Source