Under tense political pressure, the German government has proposed a tighter migration bill. Denmark passed a new bill, which makes family reunification harder and allows the seizure of refugees’ valuables. Seizing assets from refugees is already legal practice in Germany.

“We are currently proceeding a legal analysis of the Danish bill,” a spokesperson of the European Commission said on Thursday (January 28). “But this will take time.”

Brussels is looking into a package of measures the Danish Parliament, the Folketing, passed on Tuesday with an overwhelming majority.

The bill includes restrictions on family reunifications of refugee as well as the right to seize migrants’ valuables.

The adoption of the new law has triggered negative reactions all over Europe and was criticized by human rights organizations as well as the United Nations, particularly the fact that refugees will now have to wait three years before being able to apply for family reunification.

The Danish Minister of Integration Inger Stojberg visited Brussels before the vote and tried to explain that by confiscating money and other valuables from refugees, they would just be treated the same way than Danish social welfare recipients.

Asked what would happen to confiscated valuables, she said that they could be sold at public auctions. She also underlined that no assets could be taken, which are of sentimental value to the owner. (audio in Danish)

“And it is up to the individual asylum seeker himself to determine whether the jewels they wear have a sentimental value. Their explanation will be the basis and of course you can always get a court to review this,” Stojberg said.

“The clear point of departure is that these assets should be sold. That is to cover the expenses for room and board for these asylum seekers,” the minister said during a hearing in the European Parliament’s Civil Rights Committee on Monday.

The fact that valuables “of sentimental value” cannot be taken from refugees is actually due to a discussion held in Denmark before the vote. It turned out eventually that the debate focused on the example of wedding rings, which could be taken from refugees.


Many Danes just mailed their wedding rings to the immigration ministry as a response.

Valuables confiscated in Germany as well

But not only Denmark is strengthening its migration laws.

Also in Germany, especially after the sexual assaults on New Year’s eve in Cologne, plans to tighten migration laws were pushed forward.

The government put a proposal on the table on Wednesday. The new bill would give the authorities the right to expel foreigners and asylum seekers convicted for serious crimes.

The new law includes a status of a restricted protection for refugees, who are not covered by the Geneva Convention, but are threatened by torture or death penalty in case they would be sent home. They would have to wait for two years, before they can bring their families to Germany.

The government also plans to put Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco on the list of safe countries of origin in order to return migrants from there more quickly.

Whilst the Danish bill met lots of criticism, the seizure of valuables is already practiced in Germany under the current law.

The legislation in force in Germany is very clear on this. Paragraph 7 says that the asylum applier should have to pay for housing, if he is in the position to do so.

Another paragraph of the law explicitly allows authorities to seize valuables.

Whereas under the new Danish law, refugees will be allowed to keep 10,000 Kroner (1,340 euros), the German law foresees an allowance of only 200 euros.

The practice of the law is different depending on the regional states (Bundesländer). Some, like Bavaria and Baden-Wurtemberg, raised the allowance.

According to different German media reports, most of the Bundesländer have the right to seize assets, but money is rarely confiscated. Except for the Eastern German Thuringia, where, according to the weekly magazine “Die Zeit”, 18,000 euros were seized from 35 refugees.

So far only Bavaria is proceeding with systematic searches of refugees. Police officers look for documents, money and valuables, the Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told the daily “Bild-Zeitung.” Herrmann explained that possessions could be seized if their value is above 750 euros.

In Switzerland refugees have to hand over to authorities all valuables worth more than 1000 FS (940 euros) at their arrival.

Seizing valuables from migrants or other persons would be “unthinkable” in France, said the French journalist from Radio Classique, Hugues Beaudoin, in the weekly Euranet Plus “U Talking To Me?” debate.

“Automatically the link would be made with what happened with Jews during the the second world war, when the French police in collaboration with the Nazis seized valuables of Jews Therefore this is still is a very sensitive issue.”

  • Author: Daniele Weber, Euranet Plus News Agency

Listen to the whole debate below (or watch it above)