Denmarks' Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen (L) and Denmark's Minister of Immigration and Integration Inger Stojberg before the European Parliament's civil liberties committee discussed a controversial new Danish bill that would curb refugee numbers by delaying family reunification and seizing migrants' valuables.  Picture: AFP/JOHN THYS
Denmarks' Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen (L) and Denmark's Minister of Immigration and Integration Inger Stojberg on Monday before the European Parliament's civil liberties committee discussed a new Danish bill that would curb refugee numbers by delaying family reunification and seizing migrants' valuables. Picture: AFP/JOHN THYS

DANISH legislators on Tuesday are expected to pass a controversial bill aiming to make the Scandinavian country a less attractive destination for refugees and migrants.

The bill includes several different measures, including allowing police to confiscate valuables and cash from migrants.

Police will be able to search migrants’ luggage and seize cash exceeding 10,000 kroner ($1,450), as well as any individual items valued at more than that amount. Wedding rings and other items of sentimental value will be exempt.

Earlier this month the amount was raised from 3,000 kroner amid a public outcry and comparisons to Nazi Germany’s seizing of gold and valuables from Jews and others during the Second World War.

After thorny negotiations, parliamentary backing for the proposal was secured a few days later by removing any upper limits on the value of items with a sentimental value.

The government has defended the searches, arguing that people who have lived their entire lives in Denmark may also be asked to sell valuables to qualify for social benefits.

Few people believe the seized cash and goods will raise any significant amounts of money.

"We are saying that if you want to come to Europe you should stay clear of Denmark," said Martin Henriksen, a spokesman for the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party.

Switzerland has since the 1990s confiscated cash amounts, but not material goods, from people seeking asylum in the country if they exceed Sf1,000.

According to the bill, refugees would granted a lower form of protection status under Danish law, meaning people fleeing indiscriminate violence rather than individual persecution, would have to wait three years instead of one year before applying for family reunification.

Once the application has been filed, the process can take years.

The waiting time has prompted allegations that Denmark will violate the European Convention on Human Rights, the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the UN Refugee Convention.

Amnesty International said the move could "have a devastating effect on families, including their rehabilitation from experiences of trauma and their ability to integrate and adapt to life in a new country."

Residence permits would be shortened to two years from five for those granted a higher form of protection, meaning asylum seekers facing persecution based on their race, nationality, religion, political beliefs or association with a specific social group.

Refugees would have to pay the transportation costs of family members they bring to the country.

For permanent residency applications, the bill raises Danish language requirements, and the person must have been employed for 2.5 of the past three years rather than three out of five years.

The bill notes that a fee of 3,700 kroner ($540) will be introduced on applications for permanent residence permits.

The selection of 500 yearly UN quota refugees will be based on their "integration potential", which includes criteria such as language abilities, education, work experience, age and motivation.

The criteria were first introduced in 2005 by a right-wing government but were later rolled back.

AFP