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Germany takes refugees' valuables 'to pay for their stay'

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German law says refugees must pay for their care and accommodation, such as in this gym in Munich. Photo: DPA
11:40 CET+01:00
Germany's southern states are confiscating cash and valuables from refugees after they arrive, authorities in Bavaria confirmed on Thursday.

"The practice in Bavaria and the federal rules set out in law correspond in substance with the process in Switzerland," Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann told Bild on Thursday.

"Cash holdings and valuables can be secured [by the authorities] if they are over €750 and if the person has an outstanding bill, or is expected to have one."

Authorities in Baden-Württemberg have a tougher regime, where police confiscate cash and valuables above €350.

The average amount per person confiscated by authorities in the southern states was "in the four figures," Bild reported.

By confiscating valuables, the states are implementing federal laws, which require asylum seekers to use up their own resources before receiving state aid.

"If you apply for asylum here, you must use up your income and wealth before receiving aid," Aydan Özoguz, the federal government's integration commissioner, told Bild.

"That includes, for example, family jewellery. Even if some prejudices persist – you don't have it any better as an asylum seeker as someone on unemployment benefit," Özoguz added.

Uncontroversial in Germany

Moves to confiscate asylum seekers' property to pay for the services they receive have stirred controversy elsewhere in Europe.

The UN refugee authority (UNHCR) said that a draft law that would legalize the practice along with other tough measures in Denmark would "fuel fear and xenophobia".

But there were few critics of the practice inside Germany.

Opposition Green party MP Volker Beck told Der Tagesspiegel that it was right for asylum applicants to pay for services to the extent they could.

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"Of course asylum seekers aren't in a better position than those on unemployment benefits," Beck said.

"Asylum seekers must repay the costs of accommodation and care to the state."

Only the Left party (Die Linke) criticized the confiscations, with MP Ulla Jelpke telling Der Tagesspiegel that "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 argued.

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