They actually passed it—so what does Denmark’s move to seize refugees’ valuables really mean?

They can keep their wedding rings…
They can keep their wedding rings…
Image: Reuters/Johan Nilsson
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As anticipated, Denmark’s lawmakers passed today (Jan. 26) a controversial immigration bill that will require refugees entering the country to hand over their valuable assets as compensation for their upkeep—a move meant to deter asylum seekers from coming to the Nordic country otherwise known for its progressive values.

The center-right Danish government says asylum seekers will now be treated like Danish citizens on welfare, who have to sell assets above a certain level to be eligible for benefits. The legislation was harshly criticized by international organizations, and triggered comparisons to Nazis confiscating Jewish assets during the Holocaust.

But what does the bill actually mean for refugees? Here are some of its provisions:

  • Police will be allowed to search refugees’ possessions and seize cash exceeding 10,000 Danish kroner ($1,450) and individual items valued above that amount. Refugees can be freely searched—unlike Danish citizen who can only be searched in extreme situations, with a court order.
  • Refugees will be able to keep items of sentimental value, such as wedding rings. After some outcry, the lawmakers removed an upper limit for the value of these objects, the Local reports.
  • In perhaps an stronger deterrent for refugees, those fleeing “indiscriminate” rather than “individual persecution,” will have to wait three years instead of one to apply for their families to join them. The application process itself can take several years.
  • Temporary residence permits for refugees granted a stronger form of protection under Danish law—those fleeing “individual persecution” for their race, nationality, religion etc.—will be shortened from five years to two.
  • To become a permanent resident, foreigners will now need a higher level of Danish, a longer residency period, and will have to face more stringent employment requirements.

Switzerland already requires refugees to hand over any assets that are worth more than 1,000 Swiss francs ($1,000) to cover the costs of their accommodation. Refugees who stay in Switzerland are also required to hand over 10% of their wages for up to 10 years.