As Europe grapples with the continuing influx of refugees, authorities in countries like Denmark and Switzerland have a solution: Take whatever you want from them and call it a trade.

To that end, Denmark this week proposed an immigration bill that would allow police officers to confiscate valuables from refugees, who would only be allowed to retain up to $1,500 worth of their own belongings.

Denmark’s planned law, which parliament is expected to pass later this month, sets a maximum value for cash or valuables of about $1,500. Belongings valued above that are supposed to be seized. Items that are considered to have sentimental value (medals or wedding rings, for instance) are exempt.

Denmark’s integration minister, Inger Stojberg, defended the practice of taking from the people who have literally nothing left, saying, “There is no reason to criticize, since it is already the case that if you as a Dane have valuables for more than 10,000 kroner ($1,450) it may be required that this is sold before you can receive unemployment benefits.”

But what Denmark is merely proposing, the Washington Post points out, Switzerland is actually practicing—Swiss authorities are already permitted to confiscate money and valuables from refugees under the country’s asylum law. The practice made headlines this month when a refugee with $2,000 to his name had $1,000 seized upon entering the country. A silver lining? The Swiss are currently refraining from a Gestapo-style inventory of each refugee’s personal belongings:

The Swiss law allows authorities to seize any cash or valuables above the threshold of $1,000. However, unlike the proposed Danish law, Swiss authorities usually seize money or valuables previously declared by refugees, rather than searching them for such items or cash amounts as they arrive.

Still, it’s pretty lucrative. Last year alone, the Post reports, Switzerland made more than $200,000 off the people seeking refuge from terrorism.

The Swiss ministry of migration also defended the practice, saying that the money is used to cover the cost of the refugees’ stay in the country. Human rights—it’s a business, not a charity.

[The Washington Post]

Image via AP. Contact the author at