The government of Denmark passed a controversial new law on Feb. 2 which will allow authorities to seize cash and assets from refugees entering the country.
The government argues the law is meant to help refugees pay for their own expenses and says the nature of the law is being misrepresented in other countries, reports the Washington Post.
The Danish Prime Minister, Lars Rasmussen, called the law the "most misunderstood" in the country's history. But critics are right to be wary of the proposal, as that wariness has already caused the Danish government to do public relations damage control after the law was first proposed in December 2015.
According to Rabbi Bent Melchior, the former chief rabbi of Denmark, the initial proposal made by the Danish government appeared as if "it had the character of what was actually in force during the Nazis’ persecution of minorities," Times of Israel reports.
The Danish government released the following statement to the Washington Post in December after the initial legislation was proposed:
"It is explicitly mentioned in the bill before Parliament that the new rule on seizure will only apply to assets of a considerable value. Thus, foreigners will always be able to keep assets which are necessary to maintain a modest standard of living, e.g. watches and mobile phones. In other words, the general principle of a minimum amount exempt from execution also applies in this context."
Spokespeople for the governing parties in Denmark insisted the new legislation will not mean confiscating jewelry from people. But 'considerable value' is a somewhat arbitrary definition of value, and it should come as no surprise that the law evokes fears of a not-so-distant past where similar measures were carried about by the Nazis for the purposes of brutalizing and dehumanizing their enemies.
Denmark insists the main reason for the law is the fact that the country's welfare state is so massive it cannot afford to take in a large amount of refugees at one time. This argument is entirely fair, but an answer to it unfortunately depends largely on other countries within the European Union to start working on a solution to the immigration crisis. However, as a rationale for confiscating valuables from refugees entering the country, it does not make sense. The new law immediately strips them of value which they could use to contribute to their new country's economy and help them integrate; it would seem that the legislation is more divisive than integrative.