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IMMIGRATION

Danish police use controversial ‘jewellery law’ 17 times in last six years

More than six years after the controversial 'jewellery law' was passed, enabling Danish authorities to confiscate valuable items from refugees, the law has been used 17 times, according to figures from the National Police.

Danish police use controversial 'jewellery law' 17 times in last six years
Archive photo: A temporary residence for refugees in Copenhagen in 2015. Photo: Simon Skipper/Ritzau Scanpix

The figures were shown by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Integration, Kaare Dybvad Bek to Danish parliament.

The legislation, which came into effect in February 2016, allows police to confiscate cash and valuables with a value above 10,000 kroner from arriving migrants and asylum seekers.

Under Ministry of Immigration guidelines, police are told not to take wedding rings or engagement rings and individual officers are left to determine the sentimental value of other items.

According to the police figures, there have been between 0 to 5 jewellery law cases a year, from 5th February 2016 to 30th May 2022. For example the law hasn’t been used this year or in 2019 but in 2021, the law was used five times, involving nationals of Iran, Eritrea, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

However it is not clear what has been taken in each case; whether the item was jewellery or what the value was.

Controversy

At the time of its introduction, the law, which was passed by a large parliamentary majority, received criticism from international human rights groups including US-based rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Does a rich country like Denmark really need to strip the very assets of these desperate asylum seekers before providing them basic services?” HRW’s executive director Kenneth Roth said in January 2016.

Disapproval could also be found in international media, including in a New York Times editorial and a cartoon published by British paper The Independent, which depicted the Little Mermaid flush with cash and jewellery confiscated from refugees.

Technically the law could have applied to Ukrainians who have come to Denmark as refugees, to escape Russian invasion of their country but Danish parliament decided the law should not apply to Ukrainians.

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IMMIGRATION

Danish government to open office in Rwanda as asylum plan progresses

The Danish foreign ministry is to open an office in Rwandan capital Kigali. The government wants to open an offshore processing facility for refugees in the African country.

Danish government to open office in Rwanda as asylum plan progresses

Two diplomats are to be sent from Denmark to work in a new office in Kigali, Rwanda by the end of the year, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The objective of the office will be to strengthen relations between the two countries, the ministry said.

“Denmark and Rwanda share a wish to help more refugees better than today and to fight irregular and life-threatening migration, including across the Mediterranean,” immigration minister Kaare Dybvad Bek said in the statement.

“Our shared goal is to reform the current, flawed asylum system and ensure a dignified and sustainable future for refugees and migrants. I am therefore pleased that we will soon be able to open an office in Rwanda,” he said.

In additional comments to news wire Ritzau, the minister said the new office “means we are going a step further in relation to strengthening our partnership with Rwanda with regard to opening a refugee centre.”

“I’m not saying this solves everything. But it is a step on the way to fulfilling the ambition which ensures we open a refugee centre. In relation to the agreement we have, this gives us new possibilities because we have a permanent location in the country,” he said.

Moving part of Denmark’s refugee system offshore to a non-EU country – confirmed in 2021 as Rwanda – is a long-term objective of Denmark’s Social Democratic government.

The plans entail Denmark sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, where their cases would be processed by Danish authorities, instead of allowing them to live in Denmark.

Negotiations between the two countries over the specifics of such an arrangement are ongoing.

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A spokesperson from the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR said in April that the agency “does not view the idea of outsourcing asylum, whether to Rwanda or another country, as a responsible or sustainable solution.”

Human rights organisations Amnesty International has previously criticised the Danish plan, saying it takes “responsibility-shifting of refugee protection by EU governments to a new low, and would set a dangerous precedent in Europe and globally”.

The minority government’s usual parliamentary allies, the centre-left Social Liberal party and left-wing Red Green Alliance, have both stated that they oppose the plan to process asylum seekers in Rwanda, news wire Ritzau reported.

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