Denmark Considers Seizing Valuables Worth More Than $440 From Refugees

Officials would consider exemptions for items with significant sentimental value.
(Photo: Bulent Kilic/Getty Images)
Dec 18, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

After fleeing war-torn nations and surviving often treacherous cross-continental journeys, refugees entering Denmark will also undergo a search and seizure process to make sure they haven’t entered the Nordic nation with fistfuls of cash or precious gems.

The Danish government is considering a bill that would allow officials to seize jewelry and other valuables from refugees entering the country. Items with sentimental value, such as wedding rings or family heirlooms, would be exempt—unless they’re of considerable worth, The Washington Post reports.

“The bill presented on 10 December 2015 provides the Danish authorities with the power to search clothes and luggage of asylum seekers—and other migrants without a permit to stay in Denmark—with a view to finding assets which may cover the expenses,” the Danish Ministry of Integration wrote in an email to the Post.

Critics have slammed the proposal, calling it “inhumane” and comparing it to the Nazi practice of seizing valuables from Jews during World War II.

Members of the Danish parliament first tossed around the idea in early December. Justice Minister Søren Pind originally said taking items from asylum seekers would only happen in cases of extreme wealth.

“I’m talking about a situation in which a man comes along with a case full of diamonds and asks for protection in Denmark,” Pind said on a TV debate show, according to Denmark’s The Local. “That’s only fair.”

But officials will be able to take property of far less value than a single diamond. Items belonging to refugees valued above 3,000 kroner [$440] can be seized, Vox reports.

While the ministry says confiscated items would help the government provide housing, education, and health benefits for asylum seekers, critics also note that the bill discourages refugees from entering Denmark and reinforces past messages from the government to refugees that they are unwelcome.

Earlier this year, the Danish government cut benefits for asylum seekers in half and took out ads in Lebanese newspapers warning those considering entering the country of its strict regulations. While neighboring Sweden has accepted nearly 190,000 refugees this year, Denmark expects that it will have accepted 18,000 migrants by year’s end.