Denmark: Anti-refugee party harshens policy for asylum seekers

Published January 28th, 2016 - 05:30 GMT
Al Bawaba
Al Bawaba

Denmark is likely to further harshen its asylum policies, according to the country's influential anti-immigration party in a report on Wednesday, following the day when lawmakers passed a controversial bill enabling authorities to confiscate valuables from refugees.

The Danish People's Party (DPP) reached agreement with Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen's minority government to weaken social benefits for those granted asylum under the previous center-left coalition, the DPP spokesman on immigration issues Martin Henriksen told AFP.

He expected laws to be passed facilitating the deportation of refugees who have committed crimes.

"We have influenced them in several different areas and we see that as our job," Henriksen remarked about the government.

"It wouldn't be the first time that the Danish People's Party has to work to get curbs (on immigration) through parliament," he added.

The government announced it did not intend to tighten asylum rules further on Tuesday, when the Danish parliament adopted the reforms which aim to deter refugees from seeking asylum by prolonging family reunifications by three years and enabling authorities to seize refugees' belongings of values.

"At the moment, no, we do not. We've introduced several pieces of legislation to keep the amount of asylum at a manageable level," Marcus Knuth, Venstre's spokesman on immigration issues, said.

International condemnation

Some have compared the Danish policy to the confiscation of gold and other valuables belonging to Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust period.

A satirical sketch in The Guardian depicted Prime Minister Rasmussen as wearing a Nazi-style armband, quoting: "It's offensive to compare us to the Nazis!"

The cartoon, widely shared by Danish Twitter users, also displayed the ruling Venstre party's name written in a similar font and style of Carlsberg, accompanied by the tagline "Probably the stupidest political party in the world", referring to the famous Danish beer brewer's slogan.

Poul Madsen, editor of Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet and opponent to the Danish law, responded on Twitter that it was "far out to compare Lokke with Hitler" and suggested the British press to "look at how few refugees they take themselves."

In protest to the discriminatory bill, Chinese dissident artist and political activist Ai Weiwei terminated his exhibition in Copenhagen on Wednesday, which was due to end mid-April.

In addition, rights groups deplore the new law.

"I think it's despicable that Denmark and also in a sense Switzerland are moving to seize the last remaining assets of people," the executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Kenneth Roth commented as he spoke at a news conference in Istanbul.

Pia Prytz Phiri, the regional representative for northern Europe for the refugee agency UNHCR, described the new law as "outrageous and potentially also a violation of international law."

In a joint statement, EuroMed Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights and the European Association for the defense of Human Rights declared that the law "considerably weakens human rights standards."

Influential anti-immigrants

The rightwing minority government relies on parliamentary support from the DPP, which became Denmark's largest rightwing party in last year's general election, to pass the legislation.

"A lot of the curbs that were adopted yesterday have only been introduced because the Danish People's Party has pushed for them," Henriksen said.

"The government initially proposed a package of migration laws that was much smaller than what was passed yesterday," he continued, remarking that the DPP was the first party in parliament to suggest capitilizing on refugees' valuables to cover the cost of their stay in asylum centers.

The DPP also formed a resolution, approved by lawmakers last week, pressuring the government to consider the construction of temporary housing barracks outside cities for refugees, comparable to what the country did during the Balkans war in the 1990s.

The DPP considers the plan as a first step towards building state-run camps where refugees would remain without integrating into Danish society.

The government is against the idea.

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