21 Mar 2017, 48 mins ago

In an attempt to make Denmark a significantly less attractive destination for asylum-seekers, the Danish government has tightened its immigration laws by introducing new legislation targeting refugees.

According to the new law, the police will be authorized to examine asylum-seekers and their luggage in order to confiscate valuables and assets exceeding 10.000 Danish kroner (£1.000). [1] Despite the criticism that this undermines fundamental property rights, the government justified the move by stating that the possessions of asylum-seekers would be used to offset State expenditure during the asylum process. [2] After a significant backlash, the proposals were relaxed to exclude possessions with sentimental value, such as wedding rings, and the revised law was enacted on 26 January 2016. [3]

Other measures introduced, directly targeting refugees, will also make refugees wait three years after recognition before being able to bring their close relatives to Denmark for family reunification, and present additional obstacles to obtain permanent residence and reduced grants for asylum-seekers. [4]   The government has defended the new measures, affirming that extraordinary situations require extraordinary measures. Nearly 200 people seek asylum every day in Denmark, a country with the population of just 5.6 million. [5] Meanwhile, human rights organisations have declared the new legislation as unlawful as it violates international law upholding the protection of refugees by keeping parents and children separated for up to three years. [6]

Critics have drawn parallels between the legislation and the Nazis’ confiscation of possessions from Jews during the Holocaust and branded the new regulations as inhumane. [7] However, supporters of the law have argued that the law is necessary for the preservation of the Danish welfare system and that the nations’ quality of life would take a substantial toll without it. It should be said that similar laws already exist in Switzerland and Germany. [8]

The Danish government has openly expressed the desire for the new rules to discourage refugees and change the image of Denmark as a country in which to seek asylum. [9] Last year the Danish government placed adverts in Lebanese newspapers, discouraging Syrian refugees from coming to Denmark. [10]  

This new legislation comes a month after the decision to implement identification controls on buses, trains and ferries that cross the border into Scandinavia, arguably a breach of the Schengen Agreement on abolition of border controls. [11]

This legislation is symptomatic of a growing concern around immigration in the EU and is one of a series of stricter immigration policies that have been implemented across Europe. Amnesty International, who have been vocal critics of the growing anti-immigrant sentiment across the EU, said that Denmark’s move had started a “race to the bottom” as support for refugees continues to wane across Europe. [12]