Denmark has approved a bill that will allow police to seize asylum-seeking migrants’ valuables. The law passed today will require asylum seekers to forfeit all items worth more than 10,000 Kroner ($1,456 USD) to help pay for their housing and state services.
According to the Danish Ministry of Immigration, Integration and Housing, articles of “sentimental value” like “wedding rings, engagement rings, and family portraits” will be exempted from confiscation, reports CNN. Mobile phones and computers, however, are fair game.
The new law has been criticized by human rights organizations and the United Nations, reports the BBC.
Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said, “People who have suffered tremendously, who have escaped war and conflict, who’ve literally walked hundreds of kilometers if not more and put their lives at risk by crossing the Mediterranean should be treated with compassion and respect, and within their full rights as refugees.”
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Amnesty International bashed the bill as an affront to the rights of refugees.
“To prolong the suffering of vulnerable people who have been ripped apart from their families by conflict or persecution is plain wrong,” said John Dalhuisen, the Europe and Central Asia Director of the organization.
“Today’s mean-spirited vote in Danish parliament seeks not only to pilfer the possessions refugees cling to, but also to needlessly lengthen their separation from their loved ones.”
Danish MPs defended the law, saying that the bill is justified by Denmark’s welfare programs provided to asylum seekers. Jakob Elleman-Jensen, spokesperson for the Danish Liberal Party, argued in favor of the measure in an interview with CNN in December.
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“All Danish citizens and refugees receive universal health care; you receive education from preschool to university, and you receive elderly care; you receive language training and integration training free of charge, paid for by the government,” Elleman-Jensen told CNN.
The move to offset welfare costs comes as Denmark struggles to manage a larger influx of refugees this year. Denmark forecasts roughly 20,000 asylum seekers to enter the country in 2016, up from 15,000 in 2015.