As refugee property seizure bill passes, Danes worry about image

A new measure that would allow Danish authorities to confiscate valuables from refugees to make them pay for their accommodation is either a "step in the right direction" or something that will "harm Denmark," depending which political camp you ask.

The bill introducing more restrictive asylum rules was approved by the Danish parliament Tuesday and has triggered decidedly mixed reactions in the Scandinavian country.

Martin Henriksen, spokesman on immigration affairs for the right-wing populist Danish People's Party, said the bill was "a step in the right direction."

During Tuesday's debate in the Danish legislature, he said there was a need for “more border controls and further tightening of asylum and refugee policies.”

The populists have for years pushed for tougher immigration rules and provided parliamentary support for the ruling minority Liberals of Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

The Copenhagen daily Politiken cautioned in an editorial Tuesday - published before the vote - that "Denmark will pay a price for embarassing signal politics."

It said the bill risked "getting a life of its own and would harm Denmark" and its reputation.

Researcher Mads Mordhorst at the Copenhagen Business School (CBS), an expert on branding, made a similar assessment.

"Denmark risks losing its reputation as a small, peace-loving country in the far north," he told news agency Ritzau.

"We are beginning to get a reputation as a small country in the high north that does not wish to be part of the global world and does not want to take responsibility in the global world," he added.

When the draft of the bill was presented in December, a protest movement emerged about the initial wording, which would have allowed asylum seekers' jewellery being seized to pay for their stay.

On Facebook and Twitter, several initiatives were launched by individuals who suggested sending rings and other jewellery in protest to Inger Stojberg, minister for immigration and integration.

After criticism from some of the parties that backed the bill, Stojberg recently stated that rings and other items of "sentimental value" would be exempt.

Trine Christensen, secretary general of Amnesty International Denmark, said in a statement released on Facebook after the bill was approved that it was "a black day. For Denmark and the Syrians who are fleeing war and destruction."

"It is an inhumane law, and Amnesty will work to repeal it," she said.

Last update: Tue, 26/01/2016 - 19:01

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