Plans to seize assets from asylum-seekers to pay their living costs have been defended by the Danish government. The bill, which will provide authorities with the "power to search clothes and luggage of asylum seekers - and other migrants without a permit to stay in Denmark - with a view to finding assets", has received widespread condemnation and drew comparisons to the Nazi policy of confiscating gold and other valuable items from Jews and others.
"I can see that some foreign media are pouring scorn over [the fact] that we in the future may withdraw asylum-seekers' valuables and demand that they should pay for their stay in asylum centres themselves," Integration Minister Inger Stojberg posted on Facebook.
Stojberg added: "There is no reason to criticise, since it is already the case that if you as a Dane have valuables for more than 10,000 kroner (£977, €1,340, $1,450) it may be required that this is sold before you can receive unemployment benefits". In 2014, Denmark received 15,000 asylum seekers. The integration ministry said that it expects the figure to rise to around 20,000 arrivals by the end of this year and 25,000 in 2016. According to Eurostat, however, Denmark had 22% fewer asylum applications (5,520) in the third quarter of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.
The bill is expected to be passed by February as it has the support of the ruling centre-right Venstre party and anti-immigration Danish People's Party. Items which are personally and/or sentimentally significant, such as wedding rings and mobile phones will not be taken, but cash over the sum of 3,000 kroner (£292, €402, $436) and "tangible assets of a considerable value" will be subject to confiscation.
The plans have been met with anger from the international community, with the Washington Post branding the move an "extreme step" and Twitter users comparing the policy to Nazi Germany. Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said the media was painting an "incorrect picture of Denmark." A number of outsiders do not understand the generosity of the country's welfare system, he said. Rasmussen added: "It is in that context you should understand that we in Denmark say that before you get these welfare benefits you must, if you have a fortune, pay yourself."