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Denmark passes controversial measure to seize assets from refugees to pay for asylum

Amnesty International's John Dalhuisen said the laws amount to a "betrayal of our common humanity."
By Ed Adamczyk and Doug G. Ware   |   Updated Jan. 26, 2016 at 5:16 PM
| License Photo

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The Danish Parliament has passed controversial legislation that tightens rules for migrants -- including the confiscation of their assets to pay for the stay in asylum.

The proposals, which drew widespread criticism when they were introduced, were passed by Danish lawmakers Tuesday. One provision gives government officials the authority to seize assets from refugees to help pay for their presence in the country.

Items with sentimental value, such as wedding rings, are exempt from the law and immigrants are allowed to keep property worth up to $1,500 -- an amount that was initially set at $440 but raised after criticism from human rights groups.

A large majority of Denmark's government approved the measures, brought by Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, by a vote of 81-to-28.

"There's no simple answer for a single country, but until the world comes together on a joint solution (to the migrant crisis), Denmark needs to act," MP Jakob Ellemann-Jensen of Rasmussen's Venstre party said during a debate on the matter.

Danish authorities argue that the policy will bring asylum seekers' situations more in line with those of unemployed citizens, who must sell assets above a certain level to claim benefits.

But opponents compare the law to the Nazi practice of taking valuables from Jews -- and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees warned that the proposals violate a number of treaties on refugees' and children's welfare.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the law's passage Tuesday.

The Parliament also increased the waiting time of arriving families of refugees already in the country from one year to three years.

Some say that making families wait for three years before reunification is in poor taste and constitutes a violation of international conventions.

Analysts say the new measures are intended to discourage immigration by making the country appear less attractive to potential migrants. The government has already tightened its borders, as have other European nations, to address the ongoing migrant crisis.

"European states must stop this dismal race to the bottom and begin to meet their international obligations, by upholding refugees' human rights and dignity," John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia director at Amnesty International, said. "Anything less is a betrayal of our common humanity."

Denmark, a country of more than two million people said it expects to receive 20,000 migrants in 2016 -- 5,000 more than it admitted in 2015. Thousands more entered Denmark on their way to Sweden, which has also beefed up border security.

Neighboring nations also announced Monday that their temporary controls at the border will be extended for up to two more years, -- as part of the same campaign to discourage potential refugees, most of whom are fleeing the Middle East and North Africa due to ongoing civil war or terrorism.

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