Jewellery seized from refugee families in Germany

By Justin Huggler

Authorities say asylum-seekers must pay for their stay as the UN claims the practice risks stoking xenophobia
Refugees walk to a chartered train at the railway station of Passau, Germany. Photo / AP
Refugees walk to a chartered train at the railway station of Passau, Germany. Photo / AP

Germany has begun confiscating money and family jewellery from refugees to pay for the cost of their stay, in a practice the United Nations said contributed to "xenophobia and fear".

The policy has already been implemented in Denmark, where it prompted comparisons to the Nazis' seizure of gold and valuables from Jews and others during the Second World War.

MORE: Denmark's new plan to deter migrants: Seize their valuables

"Asylum-seekers are searched on arrival in reception centres for documents, valuables and money," said Joachim Herrmann, the Bavarian interior minister.

Cash and valuables can be seized if they amount to more than euros 750. In the southern state of Baden-Wurttemberg, any assets in excess of euros 350 are seized.

The German government's Integration Commissioner said the police were acting in accordance with the law. By confiscating valuables, the states says they are implementing federal laws that require asylum-seekers to use up their own resources before receiving state aid.

"Anyone who claims asylum with us must use up his own income and assets before being given benefits as a matter of principle," said Aydan Ozoguz. "This includes family jewels."

Ulla Jelpke, an MP from the Left Party (Die Linke), criticised the move. "Those who apply for asylum are exercising their basic rights [under the German Constititution]. That must not - even if they are rejected - be tied up with costs," she said. Moves to confiscate asylum seekers' property to pay for the services they receive have stirred controversy elsewhere in Europe.

The United Nations Human Rights Council spoke out yesterday against a proposed law in Denmark that will allow refugees' property to be confiscated. The US was among a number of countries to express concern over the planned legislation at the UN Human Rights Council yesterday (Thursday).

Under the proposal, assets in excess of 10,000 krone will be seized, but wedding rings and other items of sentimental value are exempt. In Switzerland assets in excess of 1,000 francs are confiscated.

Germany and Denmark have defended the policy on the basis that the same rules apply to their own citizens when they claim benefits.

"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," said Kristian Jensen, the Danish foreign minister. "This simple principle applies for Danes seeking unemployment benefits, as well as to asylum seekers."

Mr Ozoguz said: "As an asylum-seeker you shouldn't be better off than a benefits claimant."

Germany is to extend temporary border checks to regulate the flow of asylum-seekers until at least mid-February, the country's interior minister said yesterday.

Thomas de Maiziere said the checks were unlikely to be lifted in the near future. Germany suspended border-free travel under the Schengen agreement in September.

Meanwhile, Slovenia announced it would keep out all migrants apart from those planning to seek asylum in Austria and Germany.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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