Denmark Wants to Take Jewelry From Syrian Refugees

Denmark vows to strip refugees of their valuables to help pay for the cost of resettlement. Weddings rings are off limits.

12.16.15 9:25 PM ET

As if refugees needed yet another reason not to want to resettle in Denmark after the country placed “Don’t come here” ads in Arabic newspapers over the summer, now the country warns it will strip immigrants of their valuables.

The latest anti-refugee sentiment came closer to reality on Sunday when Denmark’s parliament debated a measure that would allow border police to strip incoming refugees of all valuables and cash worth over €300 to help offset costs of resettlement, according to Swedish STV television.

After some discussion, the Danish government apparently decided that refugees could keep their wedding rings, cellphones, and laptops in the measure that will eventually go up for a vote. At least one Danish parliamentarian reportedly insisted that wedding rings with a diamond over a certain carat weight should also be confiscated.

Sören Pind, Denmark’s immigration minister, told Danish television that the plan was the only way the country could afford to house the refugees seeking asylum. “I’m talking about a situation in which there are personal items of significant value but no sentimental worth,” Pind told the television station. “I’m talking about a situation in which a man comes along with a case full of diamonds and asks for protection in Denmark. That’s only fair.”

Fair, perhaps, in that strange world in which theft is OK. The measure, whether it eventually passes or not, raises the question of whether certain European countries really think it is OK to repeat the Nazi approach to immigration, during which the confiscation of valuables was the practice.

Apparently that’s the playbook Denmark is using. “It is unacceptable for Danish taxpayers to pay for asylum seekers who brought wealth with them," Naser Khader, the Danish Conservative Party’s integration commissioner, said, according to local press reports.

If the unthinkable measure really does pass, it remains uncertain just how the Danes would implement it and who would determine whether refugees passing the borders were wearing real or knock-off jewelry.  In an op-ed piece about the plan, one Danish journalist questioned the sanity of the ruling class. “Having armed men indiscriminately seize refugees’ personal belongings doesn’t strike me as the best representation of a free society,” wrote someone using the pseudonym Soverign Man. “Not that this matters anymore.”

Denmark has promised that any of the 13,000 asylum seekers who are eventually granted a right to stay will be forced to live in segregated tent camps erected in two tent cities and that they will defy European standards and triple the normal waiting period for family reunification as a further deterrent.

Not all Danes agree with the government plan. Writing on his Facebook page, Green Party leader Uffe Elbaek said that wealthy refugees probably wouldn’t be knocking on Denmark’s door. “If you have a suitcase full of diamonds, you would choose a better form of transport than across the Mediterranean, putting your life at risk,” he wrote. “Refugees bring nothing more than the few personal belongings they can. Are these really the things we want to take from refugees in Denmark? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.”