• Denmark's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Has Denmark’s plan to seize goods been misunderstood?
Denmark's asylum policies have garnered a lot of international attention, but the government says there is a lot of misinformation. Photo: Bax Lindhardt/Scanpix

Has Denmark’s plan to seize goods been misunderstood?

Gabriele Dellisanti · 22 Jan 2016, 08:40

Published: 22 Jan 2016 06:10 GMT+01:00
Updated: 22 Jan 2016 08:40 GMT+01:00

In December, the Danish government presented a law that would allow authorities to search asylum seekers and their luggage in order to find valuables that could be confiscated in order to cover the expenses of their initial stay in Denmark. 
 
The United Nations and others have harshly condemned the plan, especially as it follows the government’s numerous moves against refugees seeking asylum since taking power last year. Some went as far as to compare the country’s measures to the ones carried out against Jews in Nazi Germany.
 
What once was a country that could pride itself of its openness towards immigration, has been making numerous attempts to make itself a “less attractive” destination for asylum seekers, from placing ads in Lebanese newspapers about slashed welfare benefits for asylum seekers to proposing revisions to the 1951 UN treaty governing the rights of asylum seekers, a treaty Denmark was the first country to sign. 
 
In a recent interview with CNN, a spokesman for right-of-centre government party Venstre, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, defended the bill by claiming it would be “outrageous” to think that Denmark would seize immigrants’ jewellery. He also quoted the prime minister in emphasising that this is one of Denmark’s most misunderstood laws in years. 
 
Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen echoed that line on Thursday in Geneva when he told a highly critical UN Human Rights Council that the international outcry over the bill was due to "gross misunderstandings."
 
But has it actually been misunderstood? 
 
Proponents of the bill argue that Danish citizens who find themselves suddenly unemployed and are not covered by any specific insurance scheme, may be asked to sell their most valuable possessions in order to receive state support.
 
As MEP Anders Vistisen from the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (DF) told The Local, “the new law is about creating equality between migrants and Danes, so that everyone under the welfare system has the same possibility to receive public benefits”. 
 
Supporters of the bill also argue that “being Danish is expensive”. The country’s expansive welfare system imposes high taxes on Danish residents and citizens in exchange for free health care, education and a number of other benefits which contribute to making Denmark one of the world’s most wealthy and equal nations. Under this light, the new bill would be merely considered as a way for asylum seekers to pay for an almost assured better future. 
 
But former Venstre politician Jens Rohde, who moved to the Social Liberal Party (Radikale) in December over his opposition to the bill, described the government’s move as something “beyond any kind of decency, [it is] outrageous and cruel”. 
 
He also accused Ellemann-Jensen of lying in his CNN interview. 
 
“I do not know why Jakob Ellemann-Jensen denied that jewellery would be taken from asylum seekers arriving in Denmark," he told The Local.
 
"They might have changed the value of confiscated goods from 3,000 kroner to 10,000 kroner, but the proposed bill still allows authorities to confiscate immigrants’ valuables, jewellery included," he added. 
 
Zachary Whyte, an asylum and integration researcher at the University of Copenhagen, said that although the provision to confiscate goods may be stealing all of the attention, there other parts of the sweeping immigration bill that are even more worrying. 
 
“Human rights organisations have focused more on other elements in the bill,” he told The Local.
 
“These include a delay in processing family reunification for some refugees, so that they would have to wait three years from being granted status to first applying. Since asylum case processing is slowing down, this could potentially mean that refugees might have to wait for five years or more before they could bring their spouses and children to safety in Denmark,” Whyte said.
Story continues below…
 
In regards to the claim that Danes are also asked to sell their goods in order to receive welfare benefits, he emphasised that the unemployed seeking assistance would never have their property searched and their goods seized by the police. This, he says, means the bill by no means makes asylum seekers equal to native Danes. 
 
Rohde described this bill as “a violation of human rights and of the refugee convention” and said the Venstre government’s moves since winning the June 2015 election reveal an increasing shift to the far right in order to accommodate the requests of its support party, DF. 
 
“This move only shows how Denmark’s ruling political class only thinks of refugees as numbers and not as human beings,” he said.
 
“Rather than wondering what we misunderstood about this law, we should ask Rasmussen: ‘What did the opposition and the world not understand about it?’” 
 
Gabriele Dellisanti is a freelance journalist and travel blogger based in London.

For more news from Denmark, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Gabriele Dellisanti (gabridellisanti@gmail.com)

Today's headlines
Denmark ready to cut off money to royal grandkids
Queen Margrethe and her eight grandchildren waving to well-wishers on the queens's birthday last month. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Scanpix 2016

Politicians appear ready to limit the number of Queen Margrethe’s grandchildren who get an annual salary from the state.

First service marks Battle of Jutland centenary
A memorial park to mark the world's largest naval battle that took place May 31, 1916 during World War will soon open in Denmark. Photo: Scanpix

Britain yesterday kicked off a week of commemorations marking one hundred years since the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of World War I.

Border checks
First migrants make it from Denmark to Sweden on foot
The Øresund Bridge connects Copenhagen to Malmö. Photo: Colourbox

Dozens of attempts to cross the Øresund Bridge have been made, but this is the first successful crossing.

Seagulls 1, Aarhus 0
Aarhus's Hitchcockian nightmare will continue. Photo: Stefan W/Flickr

Officials in Denmark’s second city declared an all-out war on seagulls earlier this year. They lost.

Russia lashes out at ‘hostile’ Denmark
Russia's ambassador to Denmark, Mikhail Vanin. Photo: Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Kingdom of Denmark

Russia’s ambassador to Denmark accused the Danes of being “hostile” and “anti-Russian” in an interview published on Friday.

Danish MP cleared for 'bomb civilians' remark
Søren Espersen of the Danish People's Party. File photo: Keld Navntoft/Scanpix

Copenhagen Police have dropped proceedings against Danish People’s Party (DF) spokesperson Søren Espersen after he said that Denmark “should start” bombing civilians in Syria.

Denmark's biggest IPO to be windfall for Goldman Sachs
Dong's expected market value is up to 106.5 billion kroner. Photo: Claus Fisker/Scanpix

The Danish wind farm group Dong Energy is valued at up to $16 billion, leading to renewed debate about its partial sale to the US investment bank.

Aarhus blocks plans for grand mosque
Aarhus will not get a new mosque after all. Photo: Guillaume Baviere/Flickr

The sale of a plot of land for the construction of a grand mosque has been cancelled by Aarhus Municipality.

Denmark's waters are cleaner than ever
Danish beaches are cleaner than ever. Photo: Old Dane/ Wikipedia

Jump on in, the water's fine! In fact, it's cleaner than it's ever been.

Syrian refugees sue Denmark over long family wait time
File photo of the refugee tent camp in Thisted. Photo: Sara Gangsted/Scanpix

A group of five Syrians are suing Denmark and Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg over the three-year waiting period for family reunification imposed on refugees.

Sponsored Article
VIDEO: Why Malmö is the world's 6th best city for biking
Green card holders in Denmark in race against time
National
Green card holders in Denmark in race against time
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
How Copenhagen achieved an ‘organic food revolution’
National
How Copenhagen achieved an ‘organic food revolution’
Travel
The second best destination in all of Europe is...
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Sport
We are the champions! Denmark wins world badminton team title
After 100 years, British WW1 sailor identified in Denmark
National
After 100 years, British WW1 sailor identified in Denmark
Society
Strangest political story in Denmark just got stranger
International
Keeping Denmark in Europol 'maybe impossible'
Analysis & Opinion
Green card holders tell Denmark to keep its promise
National
Denmark picks F-35 in historic jet purchase
Society
Denmark to no longer define transgender as mental illness
National
Danish minister tells 'Sharia' troublemakers to 'get a job'
Culture
Danish 'martyr' exhibit reported to police
National
Denmark extends 'temporary' border measures for sixth time
National
Denmark nears final decision on controversial fighter jets
Society
Muslim ‘girls only’ swimming sessions ripple Danish waters
National
Could Danes face a 'red meat tax' to help climate?
National
Denmark unable to process or issue visas
Denmark to go to war against Isis in Syria
International
Denmark to go to war against Isis in Syria
Business & Money
How Denmark’s national bank card is about to change
Culture
The best Danish bands you've (maybe) never heard of
Danes leaving the church in droves
Society
Atheist campaign gets Danes to leave the church in droves
2,289
jobs available