Danish lawmakers poised to approve stripping migrants of valuables

Danish lawmakers were Tuesday set to vote on measures to tighten asylum laws, including a controversial plan to seize assets from asylum seekers to pay for their stay, despite criticism from human rights groups.

The bill was expected to pass as the right-leaning Liberals' minority government has secured backing from others, including the main opposition Social Democrats and the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party.

The move would allow for asylum seekers' belongings to be searched and for cash or valuables exceeding 10,000 kroner (1,450 dollars) to be seized. The cash and proceeds from the sale of the valuables - such as watches and mobile phones - would be used to pay for the asylum seekers' stay in Denmark.

Critics of the restrictive measures include the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, the UN refugee agency UNHCR and rights groups like Amnesty International.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen and Immigration Minister Inger Stojberg defended the measures during a debate in the European Parliament, saying they were compatible with international rules and in line with Denmark's welfare system.

Exempt are valuables with "sentimental value," such as wedding and engagement rings.

"We ... think that it is fair and reasonable that those asylum seekers who do bring enough assets with them should cover the costs of their food and lodging during the asylum process," Stojberg said Monday.

Provisions to delay family reunification for up to three years for people with temporary protection has also drawn criticism.

The Danish government has stated it intends to reduce immigration, and last year pushed through cuts in benefits for new asylum seekers to make Denmark less attractive.

Stojberg said Monday that Denmark expects a further 25,000 asylum seekers this year.

Last update: Tue, 26/01/2016 - 12:00

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