On Tuesday, a majority vote in Denmark’s Parliament ratified an extensive tightening of Danish asylum laws in an attempt to make the country a less attractive destination for refugees and immigrants. Among other things, bill L87 extends the mandatory waiting period for the right to family reunification from one to three years, cuts asylum seekers’ financial support by 10 percent, and shortens residency permits for future seekers of asylum in Denmark. Importantly, the bill will also allow police officers to confiscate refugees’ valuables. This is in order to finance their stay in the country while they seek asylum.
That’s the part of the new law Danes have dubbed “The Jewellery Act”; it’s caused most of the international outrage surrounding the controversial new law. Denmark has not received this kind of attention since the newspaper Jyllands-Posten decided to publish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad ten years ago. Just like back then, it’s not the type of international attention that has people popping champagne corks in the offices of local tourist agencies.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has said that “the point is to make sure everyone is held to the same standards, be they asylum seekers or Danes—those standards being that you provide for yourself, if you are able.” However, policemen are only allowed to confiscate valuables that exceed a value of 10,000 kroner [$1,450] and that don’t have sentimental value. This begs the question of how deep the real-life implications of this law will actually run.
To get an idea of what valuables refugees had with them upon their arrival in Denmark, VICE visited an old hospital in the port town of Helsingør that has been repurposed into an asylum center for approximately 150 refugees. This is what five of the guys who agreed to speak to us claimed to have been carrying with them when they first got there.