Switzerland, Denmark Roll Out Controversial Refugee Policy

| by Robert Fowler
Syrian Refugees In Vienna, AustriaSyrian Refugees In Vienna, Austria

Switzerland has confiscated some of the possessions of Syrian refugees seeking asylum. The nation’s government has justified the measure, stating that it is necessary to cover the costs of providing for refugees.

Swiss radio station SRF exposed the practice after coming into possession of a receipt given to a Syrian refugee who had more than half of his money taken by border authorities, The Guardian reports.

Syrians are reportedly being told to hand over any assets that exceed around $1,000.

Refugees are given an information sheet that states, “If you have property worth more than [$1,000] when you arrive at a reception [center] you are required to give up these financial assets in return for a receipt.”

Swiss authorities have dismissed criticism, reasoning that this rule only applies to a select number of refugees: 112 out of 45,000 in 2015, according to the Swiss state secretariat for migration. They also cite Swiss law, which stipulates that refugees help cover the cost for their applications and any further social assistance.

This development is uncomfortably reminding critics of Denmark’s policy of confiscating valuables from refugees fleeing from the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and ISIS.

Denmark’s parliament began debating a proposal in December 2015 to seize any assets worth $330 or more from refugees, with the exception of wedding rings, cellphones and laptops, The Daily Beast reports.

Parliamentary members defend that policy, saying it’s necessary to pay for the cost of accepting the refugees.

“I’m talking about a situation in which there are personal items of significant value but no sentimental worth,” said Denmark’s immigration minister, Soren Pind. “I’m talking about a situation in which a man comes along with a case full of diamonds and asks for protection in Denmark. That’s only fair.”

Critics of this rationale argue that the Syrians coming into their borders are not carrying a suitcase full of diamonds but whatever life savings they could cobble together before fleeing their homes.

The Danish parliament is currently amending its proposal after being censured by the United Nations.

The Scandinavian country has received intense international criticism for its treatment of Syrian refugees, including asset forfeiture and preventing families from reuniting for up to a year, The Washington Post reports.

"Denmark is a rich country and is able to take care of the refugees," said a Swedish justice minister, indicating that the country is trying to shrug off its responsibility.

The current political party governing Denmark is the Danish People's Party, which made hostility towards immigrants a core tenet of its campaign platform.

A Danish journalist using the pen name "Sovereign Man" wrote an opinion article on ValueWalk criticizing the Danish People's Party’s attitude toward the Syrian refugees, reports The Daily Beast.

“Having armed men indiscriminately seize refugees’ personal belongings doesn’t strike me as the best representation of a free society,” wrote Sovereign Man. “Not that this matters anymore.”

Sources: The Daily Beast, The Guardian, The Washington Post / Photo credit: Josh Zakary/Flickr