A Danish populist, anti-immigration party said a controversial plan to seize migrants' valuables and cash was intended to dissuade migrants from coming to Denmark and not aimed at raising money.
"The signal is important. Basically we are saying that if you want to come to Europe you should stay clear of Denmark because we have a lot of problems with migrants and... we don't need any more in Denmark," Martin Henriksen of the Danish People's Party (DPP) told AFP in an interview late Sunday.
Under the Danish center-right government's proposal, to be voted in parliament in January, items of personal significance, such as wedding rings and mobile phones, will be exempt while cash and other valuables worth more than 3,000 kroner ($440, 400 euros) will be confiscated to help pay for their stay in the generous welfare state. The center-right minority government, which rules with the backing of the DPP in parliament, has defended the bill amid comparisons to Nazi Germany's seizing of gold and valuables from Jews and others during World War II. "There is no reason to criticize, since it is already the case that if you as a Dane have valuables of more than 10,000 kroner ($1,450) it may be required that this is sold before you can receive unemployment benefits," Integration Minister Inger Stojberg said last week.
Imran Shah, a spokesman for Denmark's Islamic Society, on Monday said the DPP's strategy was "to try to push the boundary of what will be possible for a future apartheid society." But Henriksen insisted his party had no bad intentions. "This is just one small proposal in a slew of many proposals serving the goal of protecting our democracy, our country and our culture."
An online petition titled "No to the confiscation of migrants' valuables" had on Monday garnered more than 14,000 signatures. The proposal is the latest in a string of moves by Copenhagen to avoid the kind of refugee influx seen in neighboring Sweden, where around 150,000 people had applied for asylum this year by the end of November compared to just 18,000 in Denmark. Other measures have included shortening residence permits, delaying family reunifications and placing adverts in Lebanese newspapers to deter migrants. Of the 14,815 refugees who sought asylum last year, less than half were granted official refugee status, totaling 6,110. The two largest groups who sought asylum in 2015 were from Syria and Eritrea.
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