UN condemns Danish plans to seize asylum seekers’ assets

Migrants prepare to leave Copenhagen for Sweden by train. On Tuesday the government won a majority to alter legislation  on migrants' assets. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Migrants prepare to leave Copenhagen for Sweden by train. On Tuesday the government won a majority to alter legislation on migrants' assets. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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Plans to seize the assets of asylum seekers are among controversial measures on immigration being debated by MPs in Denmark.

The proposals have been condemned by the UN refugee agency and other rights groups, who say they go against international rules on refugees.

Prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen has called the plan the “most misunderstood bill in Denmark’s history”.

The bill is expected to be voted on later in the month.

On Tuesday the government secured a parliamentary majority to alter the proposed legislation to allow the Danish authorities to seize migrants’ cash and other individual items worth more than 10,000 kroner(£1,005).

Wedding rings and other items of sentimental value will not be included.

The ruling centre-right Venstre party – backed by its right-wing allies, the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, the Liberal Alliance and the Conservative People’s Party – has promised to get tough on immigration since its election in June.

Integration minister Inger Stojberg said the measures simply put migrants on an equal footing with jobless Danes, who must sell assets above a certain level to claim benefits.

She said the assets would help pay for housing, healthcare and some education.

The bill, in its amended form, was criticised yesterday by a group of ten local and regional members of the ruling Venstre party.

“It is not just a matter of proper policy and humanity, but also Denmark’s international reputation,” they wrote in a daily newspaper.

“When focusing on symbolic actions rather than real content, you forget that politics is about real people of flesh and blood,” they said.

It is understood that some 20,000 migrants arrived in Denmark last year

Another heavily criticised part of the bill would delay the reunification of families for up to three years, up from the current one year.

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), in its report on the proposed legislation, said the swift reunification of families was enshrined in a number of international conventions it called on Denmark to observe.

The bill also includes measures making it harder to obtain permanent residency and shortening temporary resident permits. Responding to the plan to seize valuables, UNHCR spokesman William Spindler told the BBC: “Refugees have lost their homes and almost everything they possess.

“It beggars belief that somebody would want to strip them away from the little they have managed to salvage from their lives.

“Refugees need and deserve compassion, understanding, respect and solidarity.”

Sofie Carsten Nielsen, an MP with the opposition Social Liberal party, said the bill was designed to “send a signal to refugees... that here in Denmark it’s very difficult to come in...

“You will be investigated and you will be ransacked and they will search your bags for every sort of belongings that you have.”

A European politician for Venstre last month left the party over its ever-tighter migration policies.