Most refugees manage to escape with only the clothes on their back or a handful of possessions in a bag, but one European country could make them pay up if they want asylum.
Denmark's lawmakers are on the verge of passing a law that would require refugees to part with their valuables to help cover the costs of taking them in, the New York Times reports. Under the proposed law, refugees who enter the country with more than $1,450 in cash or assets would have to part with what little they have left to help pay the cost of living in the country.
Gold and jewelry count toward that $1,450 figure, although Denmark's government amended the bill to exclude “objects with sentimental value" like wedding rings, according to the Times.
It is reportedly one of several new measures by Denmark designed to make the country a less attractive destination for people seeking asylum in Europe.
This new legislation has no shortage of critics: Within the country, some politicians said the proposed law makes Denmark look like a cold, inhospitable place. External critics said they worry that other countries will adopt similar measures, due to worries about terrorists posing as refugees and the high costs of absorbing thousands of new people who will require financial support.
"We will of course continue to say 'You manage your border as you see necessary,' but the right of people to seek asylum should not be jeopardized," Filippo Grandi, the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Refugees, told Reuters. "That's very, very important."
More than a million refugees fled war-torn Middle East countries like Syria for the safety of Europe in 2015 alone, with most of them going to Germany, Reuters notes.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said critics of the proposed bill are misguided, the Times reports. The proposal, which goes to a vote on Jan. 26, asks refugees to share some of the financial burden with Danish citizens, he told a Danish newspaper.
“This is probably the most misunderstood proposal in the history of Denmark,” Rasmussen said, according to the Times. “Looking at the debate, you almost get the impression that we are going to turn people upside down to see if we can shake the last coin out of their pockets. That is completely distorted and wrong.”