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Europe's Border Crisis

Denmark Passes Bill Allowing for Seizure of Refugees’ Valuables

Danish Politicians Pass Law to Seize Valuables of Migrants 0:27

Denmark's parliament passed measures Tuesday aimed at deterring refugees from seeking asylum, including confiscating valuables to pay for their stay.

The measures, which also include extending family reunification among refugees from one year to three years, have drawn protests from international human rights organizations.

Image: Denmark's Minister of Immigration and Integration Inger Stojberg listens to the debate in the Danish Parliament
Denmark's Minister of Immigration and Integration Inger Stojberg listens to the debate in the Danish Parliament on Tuesday. Mathias Loevgreen Bojesen / Reuters

The "jewelry bill" is the latest sign that the initially welcoming policies from Nordic countries are waning, as large numbers flee war in Africa and Middle East for a better life in Europe.

It is also the latest attempt by Denmark's minority center-right government to curb immigration to a country that took in a record 20,000 refugees last year.

Under the bill, refugees could keep possessions amounting to 10,000 Danish crowns ($1,450), a figure raised from 3,000 crowns (around $440) after criticism from human rights organizations.

Valuables of special emotional value such as wedding rings will be exempt.

Dissenting voices from small left-wing parties were heard during the three-and-a-half hour debate, but the bill passed with an overwhelming majority.

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Denmark is not the only Nordic country trying to shut its doors to migrants. Sweden, which took in over 160,000 refugees last year, the most per capita in Europe, introduced checks on its border with Denmark at the start of the year.

Norway has been trying to send back refugees who crossed over from Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday Moscow would not take them back.

Denmark is also not alone in targeting migrants' valuables. Switzerland has started taking valuables from asylum seekers over 1,000 Swiss francs ($985), the German state of Baden-Württemberg valuables above 350 euros ($380), while other southern states have been reported to do the same.

Image: Danish lawmakers poised to approve stripping migrants of valuables
Refugees in their beds at a tent camp in Thisted, Denmark on Jan. 13. SARA GANGSTED / EPA

"Most (refugees) have lost everything and yet this legislation appears to say that the few fortunate enough to have survived the trip to Denmark with their few remaining possessions haven't lost enough," the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said, mirroring criticism from many organizations.