Why Denmark might seize migrants' valuables

Denmark has achieved cross-party support for a plan to take valuables from incoming migrants. The plan is light on details, but could take effect next month.

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    Former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning Schmidt (L) and Johanne Schmidt Nielsen of the opposition party "Enhedslisten" attend a parliament debate on a raft of proposals on changing immigration laws, at the parliament building at Christiansborg in Copenhagen January 13, 2016. A new policy of confiscating valuables from incoming migrants has gained cross-part support in Denmark.
    Reuters/Marie Hald/Scanpix Denmark
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Denmark’s strict stance toward migrants is about to get stricter.

The Scandinavian country's minority government has secured support for a new immigration policy that calls for confiscating migrants’ valuables, amid other immigration reform proposals being debated in parliament Wednesday.

The governing Liberal Party, which drew up the confiscation policy proposal, has been light on details as to how it would be implemented. The key details known so far are that valuables would be appraised during the identity check that takes place at the start of the asylum-seeking process, and that the policy would affect migrants with items worth more than $1,450, according to The Wall Street Journal.

While the reform policy has garnered criticism domestically and abroad, it has the support of five different political parties in Denmark and is consistent with the government’s approach to the migrant crisis thus far.

“The government doesn't wish for Denmark to become a new major destination for refugees,” Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen told the Journal.

Despite being nestled geographically between Germany, which is set to take in 800,000 refugees by the end of the year, and Sweden, which forecasts spending more than $8 billion over the next two years on refugees, Denmark’s approach to the migrant crisis has differed.

Following a swing to a center-right government in the June election season, Denmark has actively tried to discourage migrants from seeking asylum there. In September, the government took out advertisements in Arabic in Lebanon that highlighted the changes Denmark was making to its asylum program.

Some view the new reforms as an extension of those efforts to dissuade migrants from coming to Denmark.

In a December debate, the head of Red Green Alliance, the opposition party, criticized the plan, saying it signals to everyone that asylum seekers are not welcome in Denmark, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

The United Nations Refugee Agency has criticized the proposal as well, warning that it could “fuel fear, xenophobia, and similar restrictions that would reduce – rather than expand – the asylum space globally.”

In response, the Danish government has pointed to domestic policies in place limiting the amount of assets those seeking welfare are allowed to have.

“We’re simply applying the same rules we apply to Danish citizens who wish to take money from the Danish government,” Danish government spokesman Marcus Knuth told the Guardian in January.

The immigration reform policies are currently supported by the Social Democrats, the Danish People’s Party, the Liberal Alliance, the Conservative People’s Party, and the governing Liberal Party. The proposal could go into effect as early as next month.

“In Denmark, you should support yourself if you can,” Immigration Minister Inger Stojberg said in a statement.

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