Denmark will probably tighten its asylum policies further, the country’s influential anti-immigration party said Wednesday, a day after lawmakers passed a controversial bill allowing authorities to seize valuables from refugees.
The Danish People’s Party (DPP) has already reached agreement with Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen’s minority government to retroactively lower social benefits for those granted asylum under the previous centre-left coalition, the DPP spokesman on immigration issues Martin Henriksen told AFP.
He also expected legislation to be passed making it easier to deport refugees who have committed crimes.
“We have influenced them in several different areas and we see that as our job,” Henriksen said of the government.
“It wouldn’t be the first time that the Danish People’s Party has to work to get curbs (on immigration) through parliament,” he added.
On Tuesday, when Denmark’s parliament adopted the reforms aimed at dissuading migrants from seeking asylum by delaying family reunifications by three years and allowing authorities to confiscate migrants’ valuables, the government said it had no immediate plans to tighten asylum rules further.
“At the moment, no, we do not. We’ve introduced several pieces of legislation to keep the amount of asylum at a manageable level,” Marcus Knuth, Venstre’s spokesman on immigration issues, told AFP.
– International condemnation –
Some have likened the Danish move to the confiscation of gold and other valuables from Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
A cartoon in British daily The Guardian portrayed Prime Minister Rasmussen wearing a Nazi-style armband, saying: “It’s offensive to compare us to the Nazis!”
The picture, widely circulated among Danish Twitter users, also showed the ruling Venstre party’s name written in a font similar to the one used by Danish brewer Carlsberg, and the tagline “Probably the stupidest political party in the world”, a reference to the beer maker’s slogan.
The editor of Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet, Poul Madsen — an opponent of the Danish law — said on Twitter that it was “far out to compare Lokke with Hitler” and urged the British press to “look at how few refugees they take themselves.”
To protest the controversial bill, Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei on Wednesday closed down his exhibition in Copenhagen, which was due to close in mid-April.
Meanwhile, rights groups continued to blast the new law.
“I think it’s despicable that Denmark and also in a sense Switzerland are moving to seize the last remaining assets of people,” the executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Kenneth Roth told a news conference in Istanbul.
Refugee agency UNHCR’s regional representative for northern Europe, Pia Prytz Phiri, said the new law was “outrageous and potentially also a violation of international law.”
And in a joint statement, the International Federation for Human Rights, EuroMed Rights and the European Association for the defense of Human Rights said the law “considerably weakens human rights standards.”
– Influential anti-immigrants –
In order to pass legislation the right-wing minority government needs parliamentary backing from the DPP, which became Denmark’s biggest right-wing party in last year’s general election.
“A lot of the curbs that were adopted yesterday have only been introduced because the Danish People’s Party has pushed for them,” Henriksen said.
“The government initially proposed a package of migration laws that was much smaller than what was passed yesterday,” he added, noting that the DPP was the first party in parliament to raise the issue of whether migrants’ valuables could be used to pay for their stay in asylum centres.
The DPP is also behind a resolution, passed by lawmakers last week, pushing the government to look into the construction of temporary housing complexes outside cities for refugees, like the country did during the Balkans war in the 1990s.
The DPP sees it as a first step towards building state-run camps where refugees would stay without integrating into Danish society.
The government has opposed the idea.