Germany’s southern states have started confiscating jewelry and other valuables from refugees, to pay for their stay, in the wake of a similar plan by Denmark and Switzerland.
The controversial move comes as part of a bill that seeks to curb the rights of the asylum-seekers. It purports refugees must have used up their own resources in order to receive help from the state.
"Asylum applicants are searched on arrival at the reception centers for documents, valuables, and money," Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann recently told the Bild newspaper. "Cash and valuables may be confiscated if they are worth more than 750 euros [$820] and there is a state claim for reimbursement against the person, or one is expected."
Authorities in Germany have begun to seize cash, jewelry and other valuables from immigrants seeking shelter from their war-torn countries. Similar procedures are in place at various countries of the European Union.
The state of Baden-Württemberg is following a stricter method, with police seizing possession worth over €350 ($378) and that the average value of possessions seized per refugee in December, was in the “four-figure” range.
The government has tried to defend the bill, claiming it corresponds with similar programs that have been in place for immigrants for decades.
"Refugees are not being systematically searched for cash or valuables," said ministry spokesman Christoph Häring. "In the context of a general police check it was established that individual refugees had cash with them."
Nor is this practice actually new. "They've always done that," said Stephan Dünnwald of the Bavarian Refugee Council. "The refugees get a receipt for whatever they have on them, and then that money is used for any expenses the state incurs — usually they calculate around 400 euros a month. That's part of German law — nothing to do with any new restrictions."
Many have condemned this policy as state-regulated burglary, comparing it with the treatment of Jews in Europe during the Holocaust.
The bill would also cause a delay in family reunification by increasing the waiting period for war refugees being able to apply to bring over family members from one to three years — a motion that has been criticized by the director of the Danish Institute of Human Rights.
The law also strives to make the rigid permanent residency requirements even tougher, and has been slammed by Gauri van Gulik, the deputy director of Amnesty International, for singling out traumatized refugees for discriminatory practice.
The Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen seems completely indifferent to the criticism of his policies and has suggested that the country might go on to seek revisions if the refugee crisis worsens.