Since February 5th, Danish police have had the authority to confiscate cash and valuables above 10,000 kroner from arriving asylum seekers. What has come to be known as Denmark's ‘jewellery bill' was a provision in a wide-ranging immigration overhaul approved by parliament on January 26th.
Under guidelines provided to police by the Immigration Ministry, police are allowed to ask migrants to hand over cash or valuables and subject them to a search if they do not comply.
But throughout the first week that the law was in place, police did not confiscate a single item or so much as one krone in cash, the Danish National Police told Metroxpress.
“The National Police can inform that the so-called jewellery law at the current time has not given rise to the confiscation of cash or valuables,” the police said in a statement.
Although the government justified the laws by saying that asylum seekers who can afford it should help offset the costs of their time in Denmark, both supporters and detractors of the bill have long pointed to its symbolic effect, rather than finances, as being the true driving force behind the provision.
“I think it is obvious that this law is a signal more than anything else,” Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen from the left-wing Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) told Metroxpress.
“But I think that [Integration Minister] Inger Støjberg and the government are quite satisfied with this because wasn't the primary goal to tell the world that Denmark is not a nice place to be as a refugee?” she added.
Branding expert Michael Ulveman told Metroxpress that the lack of confiscations could be seen as an attempt to rebound from the international criticism that the law has received.
“It's obvious that the most damaging thing would be if the international media reported that the Danish state was shovelling in money by selling refugees' valuables. That would be the worst nightmare, from a communications standpoint,” he told Metroxpress.
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has attempted to brush off international scrutiny of the law by saying that Denmark has “nothing to be ashamed of” and that reports of a damaged reputation are overblown.
“We don't have a bad reputation. I haven't met any of my [international] colleagues who have given me the impression that Denmark has a bad reputation,” he recently told Politiken.
“It's a particular Danish discipline to be masochistic and let some selective newspaper clippings whip things up,” he added.
Rasmussen's Venstre government included the confiscation plans in a bill that also shortened the length of residence permits, makes some refugees wait three years to apply for family reunifications and sets tougher rules for all foreigners to obtain permanent residency.
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 government expects another 25,000 asylum seekers in 2016.