The government's new 'jewellery law' takes effect on Friday. Photo: Claus Fisker/Scanpix
The Immigration Ministry has sent guidelines to Danish police on how to carry out the search and seizure of cash and valuables from arriving asylum seekers as Denmark’s newly-passed controversial legislation officially takes effect on Friday.
Under the guidelines, police are told not to take wedding rings or engagement rings and individual officers are left to determine the “sentimental value” of other items.
Police are told not to take items if they are “associated with a particular personal story that means the object cannot be replaced by another one,” the guidelines read.
Before any search takes place, officers are told to first ask migrants to show any cash or valuables they have on their person or in their baggage.
“With the visitation, police must in part determine if the foreigner is wearing any visible valuables and must also examine the clothing the foreigner is wearing without carrying out a search of their body. With the visitation, there shall be no undressing or entry into the human body,” the guidelines read.
Police are allowed to pat down the migrants’ clothing and check their pockets, as well as undo the top button of garments and roll up their sleeves to search for any hidden valuables.
Police will also have the authority to search the migrants’ bags.
“This entails that police can look through and investigate bags, suitcases, etc and that bags and suitcases can be emptied in order to check their contents,” the guidelines say.
The head of Denmark's police union, Claus Oxfeldt, said he didn't think the result of the searches would be “extensive”.
“We are to pat people down like when we make arrests (and) ensure that people do not carry weapons,” he told news agency Ritzau.
“I cannot imagine that there will be a lot of jewellery that we will confiscate,” he added.
The controversial provision allowing authorities to seize valuables has been dubbed the ‘jewellery law’ in both the Danish and international media, although that element was just one part of a wide-ranging immigration bill. Other provisions include shortening the length of residence permits, making some refugees wait three years to apply for family reunifications and tougher rules for all foreigners to obtain permanent residency.
After thorny negotiations with the other parties, Copenhagen's minority right-wing government agreed to exempt wedding rings and other items of sentimental value from the searches.
It also raised the limit for how much cash a migrant can keep, as well as the value of any individual item they can keep, to 10,000 kroner (€1,340, $1,450) from the initial 3,000 kroner proposed.
Home to 5.6 million people, Denmark registered 21,000 asylum applications in 2015, making it one of the top EU destinations per capita for migrants after Finland, Austria, Germany and Sweden.
The Immigration Ministry's full guidelines for the search and confiscation of cash and valuables can be read here (in Danish).