January 8, 2016 / 6:48 PM / 2 years ago

Denmark, under fire, ups limit of valuables that refugees can keep

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark is amending a proposal to confiscate refugees’ possessions to pay for their stay by raising the amount they will be allowed to keep after coming under fire from the United Nations refugee agency over its immigration policies.

A group of migrants check a departure board at Copenhagen Central Station November 12, 2015. REUTERS/Asger Ladefoged/Scanpix Denmark

Immigration Minister Inger Stojberg told local news agency Ritzau on Friday that the amount refugees would be able to keep has been increased to 10,000 Danish crowns ($1,460) from the previously proposed 3,000 crowns.

Several organizations, including the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) have censured the Nordic country for the proposal as well as others that will delay family reunification and make acquiring refugee and residence status more difficult.

Stojberg emphasized personal items with sentimental significance such as wedding rings and basics such as mobile phones and watches would not be confiscated under amendments to the immigration laws, which parliament has to pass.

“This is about the fact that we have a principle in Denmark that if one can support oneself, one has to support oneself. This should also apply to asylum seekers, as it applies to Danes who have lived here their whole lives,” she told Ritzau.

“There have been doubts as to whether one could be allowed to keep a wedding ring. And of course you can keep an ordinary wedding ring when you come to Denmark,” she said.

Denmark imposed temporary border checks with Germany last week after Sweden, the final destination of many migrants passing through Denmark after a long and dangerous journey from the Middle East and Africa, did the same.

In a letter sent by the ministry to the European Commission to explain border checks, it said 91,000 migrants had passed through Denmark since September last year, with just 13,000 of those claiming asylum. Most moved on.

The UNHCR said on Thursday Danish immigration policy changes were “a deeply concerning response to humanitarian needs” and that taking away refugees’ possessions was “an affront to their dignity”.

It said the new policies could send a “worrisome” signal and “fuel fear, xenophobia and similar restrictions”.

($1 = 6.8517 Danish crowns)

Reporting by Sabina Zawadzki; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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