COPENHAGEN: Spurning scathing international criticism, Danish lawmakers on Thursday gave a final nod to drastic reforms curbing asylum rights as legal and human rights experts castigated Copenhagen for turning its back on its international commitments.
Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen’s minority right-wing government, supported in parliament by an anti-immigration far-right party that has for 15 years dictated increasingly restrictive immigration policies, already has enough support for its bill to win a January 26 parliamentary vote.
The new law would delay family reunifications, confiscate migrants’ valuables and make already stringent permanent residency requirements even tougher.
Fearing a domino effect across Europe, the UN refugee agency UNHCR has decried the bill, saying it “could fuel fear (and) xenophobia.”
Once a champion of refugees’ rights, Denmark would be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the UN Refugee Convention, the UNHCR concluded in a January report.
Unfazed, Copenhagen maintains it is not able to neither finance more migrants nor integrate them into society.
“Denmark’s immigration policy is decided in Denmark, not in Brussels,” Integration Minister Inger Stojberg has repeatedly said.
The government on Thursday presented the bill in its final form to parliament, a last chance for lawmakers to demand changes though it was just a formality as a majority had already agreed to back it.
The confiscation of migrants’ valuables has been the reform that has dominated international headlines.
The bill allows Danish authorities to seize asylum seekers’ cash exceeding 10,000 kroner (1,340 euros, $1,450), as well as any individual items valued at more than 10,000 kroner. Wedding rings and other items of sentimental value are exempt.
Legal experts have however voiced more alarm over the measures making it harder to obtain family reunifications and residency permits.
Copenhagen wants to increase from one year to three years the waiting period for war refugees before they can apply to bring over their family members.
“According to the European Court of Human Rights, the processing of family reunification cases must be expeditious, flexible and efficient with special attention and care,” the director of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, Jonas Christoffersen, told AFP.