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Danish parliament to vote on controversial migrant bill | Webmarked News

Danish parliament to vote on controversial migrant bill

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Denmark’s parliament is expected to vote Tuesday in favour of draconian reforms curbing the rights of asylum seekers, including delaying family reunifications and confiscating migrants’ valuables under legislation that has provoked widespread condemnation.

Danish parliament to vote on controversial migrant bill

Danish parliament to vote on controversial migrant bill / Copenhagen (Denmark) – 26 January 2016 10:17 – AFP (Sören BILLING) / WRAP ADDS quotes from Social Democratic MP, Amnesty, background / Denmark’s parliament is expected to vote Tuesday in favour of draconian reforms curbing the rights of asylum seekers, including delaying family reunifications and confiscating migrants’ valuables under legislation that has provoked widespread condemnation.The government insists the new law is needed to stem the flow of refugees even though Denmark and Sweden recently tightened their borders, a move that prompted Germany and Austria to turn back new arrivals heading for Scandinavia.While international outrage has focused on a proposal allowing police to seize cash and valuables from refugees to help pay for their stay in asylum centres, rights activists have blasted a proposed three-year delay for family reunifications which they say breaches international conventions.”I’m afraid that it will lead to an incentive structure where refugees bring their children with them,” Mette Gjerskov, one of three Social Democratic lawmakers planning to vote against their own party, told the Berlingske newspaper.”We have seen plenty of children in rubber boats on the Mediterranean,” she added.Some have likened the Danish proposals to the confiscation of gold and other valuables from Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust.Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen of the right-wing Venstre party has shrugged off the criticism, calling it “the most misunderstood bill in Denmark’s history”, seemingly more concerned with opinion polls showing that 70 percent of Danes rank immigration as their top political concern.”Rasmussen has to be elected in Denmark… not the international media,” Bjarne Steensbeck, a political commentator at public broadcaster DR, told AFP.- ‘Significantly less attractive’ -The minority government eventually backtracked on parts of the plan to confiscate migrants’ valuables in order to secure backing for the bill from two small right-wing parties and the opposition Social Democrats.Asylum seekers will now have to hand over cash exceeding 10,000 kroner (1,340 euros, $1,450) and any individual items valued at more than that amount, up from the initial 3,000 kroner proposed.After thorny negotiations with the other parties, Integration Minister Inger Stojberg agreed to make wedding rings and other items of sentimental value exempt.The government has defended the move by arguing that Danes who want to qualify for social benefits may also have to sell their valuables.However, they are not subjected to the kind of searches proposed in the new asylum law.Once a champion of refugee rights, the Scandinavian country’s goal is now to become “significantly less attractive for asylum-seekers,” Stojberg said.”The tone in the public debate about refugees and immigrants has undoubtedly become tougher,” Kashif Ahmad, the leader of the National Party, which hopes to enter parliament by targeting the immigrant vote, told AFP.Amnesty International has called the three-year waiting period for family reunifications “cruel”, saying it could “have a devastating impact on families”.- International criticism -Home to 5.6 million people, Denmark registered 21,000 asylum applications in 2015, making it one of the top EU destinations per capita for migrants but putting it far behind the 163,000 registered in neighbouring Sweden.International criticism has mounted in the run-up to Tuesday’s vote, with refugee agency UNHCR claiming it violates several conventions on rights and refugees.In a January 15 letter to Stojberg, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, said the family reunifications proposal raises “issues of compatibility” with the European Convention on Human Rights.Rasmussen, whose party won a June 2015 election after promising an “immediate slowdown” of Denmark’s refugee influx, has been unfazed, arguing that the UN Refugee Convention may need to be changed if refugees keep pouring into Europe.Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen defended the new law last week as he appeared before the United Nations for a review of Denmark’s rights policies.”The Danish welfare state is based upon the very simple principle that the state will provide and pay for those unable to take care of themselves, not for those who are able,” he told the Human Rights Council.He and Stojberg reiterated the same line as they faced questioning from European MPs in the civil liberties committee on Monday.Once passed by parliament, the bill will be signed into law by Denmark’s Queen Margrethe within a few days.Danish lawmakers last week also passed a resolution pushing the government to look into the consequences of building temporary housing complexes outside cities for refugees, like the country did during the Balkans war in the 1990s.The move is backed by the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, which sees it as a first step towards building state-run camps where refugees would stay without integrating into Danish society.nsb/po/txw

Tags : bill, Migrant, Controversial, vote, parliament, danish

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