Tough new migrant laws passed in Denmark

  • 27/01/2016
Denmark's Minister of Immigration and Integration Inger Stojberg. (Reuters)
Denmark's Minister of Immigration and Integration Inger Stojberg. (Reuters)

By Alexander Tange

Denmark's parliament has passed measures aimed at deterring refugees from seeking asylum, including confiscating valuables to pay for their stay, despite protests from international human rights organisations.

The measures, which also include extending family reunification among refugees from one year to three years, are the latest sign that the Nordic welcome for refugees is waning as large numbers flee war in Africa and Middle East for Europe.

The "jewellery bill" is the latest attempt by Denmark's minority centre-right government to curb immigration to a country that took in a record 20,000 refugees last year.

Under the bill, refugees can keep possessions amounting to 10,000 Danish crowns (NZ$2243), raised from 3000 crowns after criticism from human rights organisations. Valuables of special emotional value such as wedding rings will be exempt.

The Liberals Party government has just 34 out of 179 seats in parliament and depends on support of rightist parties, including the anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DF), to pass laws.

During a three-and-a-half-hour debate, dissenting voices from small leftwing parties were heard, but the bill passed with an overwhelming majority, backed by the main centre-left opposition party Social Democrats.

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 to Denmark at the start of the year.

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

Denmark is also not alone in targeting migrants' valuables. Switzerland has started taking valuables from asylum seekers over 1000 Swiss francs (NZ$1510), and the German state of Baden-Wrttemberg valuables above 350 euros (NZ$582).