Denmark to make refugees pay for own asylum

  • 31/01/2016
Denmark to make refugees pay for own asylum

Migrants often take life-threatening treks to flee dangers at home. But Europe is becoming increasingly reluctant to let them in.

Denmark now wants refugees to pay for their own asylum.

Zarifa Abdullah and her four children arrived in Denmark when she had nothing left.

"We used to have everything," she says, "a house, cars, jewellery. We had to sell it all [before she left Raqqa, Syria]."

Now under the new law, the Danish government can seize any valuables to help pay for her family's upkeep. But she left her husband behind in Turkey, and the new bill also makes seeing him much harder.

It blocks migrants from bringing immediate family members to Denmark for at least three years.

Michala Bendixen, who helps migrants apply for asylum, said delaying a family reunion is just cruel.

"Making a law like this is so cynical and so evil that I don't know how you can do things like that," she says.

But the country of 5 million people is struggling to cope with an influx of more than 20,000 refugees last year – one of the highest per capita in Europe.  

Politician Marcus Knuth says the law is a deterrent.

"You can put it that way. It sounds very tough but the alternative is we simply don't have enough empty beds; we don't have enough space. We can't look after the people who come here."

The Government says making migrants help pay for their stay is only fair. Danish citizens on welfare also have to give up their cash to qualify.  

Similar measures are already in place in parts of Germany and Switzerland, where the Swiss government has collected around $200,000 from migrants. 

"Sadly enough I think it is [setting a trend for Europe]," says Ms Bendixen. "And that's really horrible because cutting down on people's rights and people's access to society is not going to solve anything."

Zarifa says the new laws would not have scared her away. When you have nothing left, there's nothing left to lose.

CBS News