On Tuesday, the Danish parliament voted in favor of controversial legislation that allows authorities to seize valuables from newly arrived refugees, CNN reports.
The new asset-seizure law also delays the family reunification process for refugees in Denmark, and refugees now have to wait three years to apply for their families to join them.
Under this law, commonly referred to as the jewelry bill, police may search asylum seekers and confiscate assets worth over 10,000 Danish kroner (roughly $1,500). The Danish Ministry of Immigration, Integration and Housing said items with sentimental value (wedding rings, medals, etc) are excluded from this.
The seized assets will be used to cover the refugees' housing and food costs. It seems the Danish government is justifying this upon the notion refugees should have to offer something in exchange for the generosity of Denmark and the benefits of living in the country's welfare state.
But, not everyone agrees with this logic, and the newly enacted law generated widespread condemnation, as it seemingly condones the robbery of some of the world's most vulnerable people.
Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for Secretary-General of the United Nations 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.
Amnesty International was also quite critical of this move. John Dalhuisen, the group's Europe and Central Asia director, said,
To prolong the suffering of vulnerable people who have been ripped apart from their families by conflict or persecution is plain wrong. 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.
Similar policies enacted in Switzerland and parts of Germany also incited significant backlash; it's debatably inhumane to seize the valuables of people fleeing war, persecution and poverty.
All of this is occurring as Europe faces the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
Citations: Denmark adopts controversial law to seize asylum seekers' valuables (CNN), Denmark Passes Law Allowing Confiscation Of Refugees' Valuables (Huffington Post), Denmark approves controversial migrant assets bill (BBC), Switzerland seizing assets from refugees to cover costs (The Guardian)