Cruel New Law Allows Denmark Police to Seize Refugees’ Valuables

In a move decried as deeply inhumane, the Danish parliament on Tuesday passed a sweeping package of laws that will allow police to search new asylum-seekers and seize valuables they are carrying on their person—including jewelry and gold.


Part of a continent-wide crackdown on people fleeing war and poverty, the policies were initially introduced by the right-wing minority government of Denmark's prime minister, Lars Lokke, and they passed with a large majority.

One measure stipulates that new refugees entering the country with assets worth more than $1,450 can have them seized by police. The law claims that authorities will exempt possessions deemed to be of sentimental value, such as wedding rings.

While proponents allege the measure covers the cost of housing refugees, it comes amid an alarming spike in racism and Islamophobia, marked by the rise of the Danish People’s Party.

What’s more, the policy comes with a host of other cruel measures that the United Nations Refugee Agency recently charged are aimed at deterring refugees by making Denmark inhospitable and unlivable. And in fact, last year the Danish government went so far as to place an advertisement in Lebanese newspapers warning refugees not to seek asylum in their country.

The new laws also force refugees to wait at least three years before reunifying with their family members, many of whom are trapped in refugee camps or areas threatened by war and siege.

That provision elicited significant protest, including from Jean Claude Mangomba, an English teacher and refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “The new law is very bad, really they just want to send us back,” Mangomba told The Guardian. “I have not seen my wife and three children for three years. With the new law, it will take many more years before I can see them again. I am losing hope. The asylum system here kills people slowly.”

The law also came under fire from global humanitarian organizations. “It’s simply cruel to force people who are running from conflicts to make an impossible choice: either bring children and other loved ones on dangerous, even lethal journeys, or leave them behind and face a prolonged separation while family members continue to suffer the horrors of war,” declared Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

The policy allowing the seizure of valuables, meanwhile, has drawn comparisons to Nazi Germany’s seizure of Jews’ valuables.

That provision is not unique in Europe. Both Germany and Switzerland have recently enacted similar laws allowing the state to seize assets from refugees. And according to Dutch media outlets, the state has taken more than $760,000 from asylum seekers over the past four years. Meanwhile Bavaria, like Denmark, allows its police to search new refugees for valuables.

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