• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Germany confiscates more from refugees than Denmark
Refugees taking a train from Germany to Denmark. Photo: DPA

Germany confiscates more from refugees than Denmark

Jörg Luyken · 28 Jan 2016, 10:41

Published: 28 Jan 2016 10:41 GMT+01:00

The new Danish legislation passed on Tuesday, which would allow authorities to confiscate valuables worth more than 10,000 Danish Krone (€1,340) from refugees, was described as despicable by US-based rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW).

"Does a rich country like Denmark really need to strip the very assets of these desperate asylum seekers before providing them basic services?" HRW's executive director Kenneth Roth asked in a press conference in Istanbul on Wednesday.

Some critics have even likened the Danish proposals to the confiscation of gold and other valuables from Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who is currently a guest professor at  the University of Art in Berlin, pulled an exhibition in Denmark in disgust.

But Germany actually has long established rules on confiscating refugees’ valuables which are stricter than those set out by the new Danish law.

For Matthias Höhn, chief whip for Die Linke (the Lefty Party) in the federal parliament, this is a "heartless" treatment of vulnerable people.

"Because refugees are denied legal ways into Europe, they become dependent on the dirty trade of smugglers - that means selling belongings and property for the expensive journey which comes at enormous risk to their lives," Höhn told The Local

"Taking away their remaining money and last heirlooms is perhaps strictly legal, but it’s more than a bit heartless."

Mandatory searches

In Bavaria - where the vast majority of refugees arrive in the country - cash and valuables can be confiscated with a value of over €750.

A spokesperson for the Bavarian social ministry confirmed to The Local that upon arrival "refugees are searched for documents, valuables and money."

"When we suspect that the an asylum seeker is holding large sums and does not agree to be searched, the police are called in."

The spokesperson explained that valuables taken from refugees are put into the state budget and go towards financing the costs of housing refugees, so that "available assets are used before the state raises extra taxes."

In the neighbouring southern state of Baden-Württemberg the rules are even stricter. There, refugees can have valuables worth more than €350 taken from them.

Meanwhile in North Rhine-Westphalia refugees are only allowed to have €200 in valuables before local authorities can start taking their possessions.

They 'must repay costs'

All three 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, recently told Bild newspaper.

Story continues below…

"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.

But, outside Die Linke, 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.

"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."

 

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Jörg Luyken (joerg.luyken@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
Lion shot dead at Leipzig Zoo after breaking out of cage
Motshegetsi (l) und Majo. Photo: DPA

A young male lion was shot dead at Leipzig Zoo on Thursday afternoon after he broke out of his enclosure.

EU takes Germany to court for 'discriminatory' foreigner toll
A sign that reads "toll" along the Autobahn by Rostock. Photo: DPA.

The European Commission on Thursday said it is taking Germany to the EU Court of Justice because of the country's plan to impose a road toll that would mainly charge foreign drivers.

After 3-year trial, suspected neo-Nazi terrorist speaks out
Beate Zschäpe. Photo: DPA

Beate Zschäpe, the only living member of an underground neo-Nazi cell accused of murdering ten people, has spoken to the court in Munich after three years of silence.

Green party wants only e-cars on Autobahn by 2030
Photo: DPA.

The environmentalist Green party has an ambitious plan for German cars to be petrol- and diesel-free within the next 15 years.

Commerzbank to make one in five staff redundant by 2020
Photo: DPA

Germany's second largest lender Commerzbank said on Thursday it plans to cut 9,600 jobs by 2020 and withhold dividends to pay for a €1.1 billion restructuring.

Germany's favourite smoker wins battle against eviction
Photo: DPA

How a pensioner with a serious smoking habit won a years-long fight for his right to keep his home - and his favourite pastime.

Thousands evacuated after WWII bomb found in Cologne
File photo of a Second World War bomb: DPA

Several thousands people were being evacuated from a district of Cologne just north of the old town on Thursday morning, after a Second World War bomb was found in a parking lot.

Kidnapped German journalist and her baby freed in Syria
File photo of a Syrian soldier: SANA/DPA.

A German woman who was kidnapped in Syria last year while she was pregnant has been freed along with her baby, the German Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Air Berlin to cut 1,200 jobs and halve airline fleet
Photo: DPA.

Struggling Air Berlin, Germany's second-largest airline, announced on Wednesday a major restructuring plan that shrinks its fleet and cuts 1,200 jobs.

Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Photo: Thomas Wolf/Wikimedia Commons.

From stunning chalk-white cliffs to fairy tale castles, Germany has some breathtaking sights to see, perfect for social media.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
6,582
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd