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Denmark approves controversial migrant assets bill

Written by Maritime First
  • Italian Museum Covers Roman Nude Statues During Iran President’s Visit

The Danish parliament has backed a controversial proposal to confiscate asylum seekers’ valuables to pay for their upkeep.

Police will be able to seize valuables worth more than 10,000 kroner (1,340 euros; £1,000) from refugees to cover housing and food costs.

MPs also approved plans to delay family reunions for asylum seekers.

A spokesman for UN chief Ban Ki-moon criticised the decision, saying refugees deserved compassion.

“People who have suffered tremendously, who have escaped war and conflict, who’ve literally walked hundreds of kilometres if not more and put their lives at risk by crossing the Mediterranean should be treated with compassion and respect, and within their full rights as refugees,” said Stephane Dujarric.

The bill has been widely criticised by human rights groups.

The prospect of refugees having possessions seized has drawn comparisons to the confiscation of valuables from Jews during World War Two.

The government has said that items of sentimental value, such as wedding rings, will be exempt. It also raised the amount refugees will be allowed to keep from 3,000 kroner to 10,000 following objections.

The government has said that the policy brings refugees in line with unemployed Danes, who also face having to sell assets above a certain level to claim benefits.

However, critics have said that many Danes have unemployment insurance that saves them having to sell assets, and anyway would not face the kind of searches proposed under the new law.

The new measures also mean the period migrants will have to wait before applying for relatives to join them will be extended from one year to three – a move aimed at discouraging new arrivals.

Temporary residence permits will be shortened and the conditions for obtaining a permanent permit will be restricted.

Denmark received more than 21,000 asylum seekers in 2015.

MPs approved the measures by 81 votes to 27 following a lengthy, and at times angry, debate. One MP abstained and 70 others were absent. The centre-left opposition Social Democrats and the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party both voted in favour.

Martin Henriksen, immigration spokesman for the Danish People’s Party, described the numbers of migrants entering Europe as an “exodus”.

“More needs to be done. We need more border controls, we need tighter immigration rules,” he said.

But Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen, of the opposition left Red-Green Alliance that opposed the bill, said it was “a symbolic move to scare people away”.

Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen of the centre-right Venstre party had previously shrugged off criticism of the proposals calling them “the most misunderstood bill in Denmark’s history”.

In the meantime, call it a cover-up: Nude statues were hidden in Rome in an apparent attempt not to offend the visiting president of socially conservative Iran.

President Hassan Rouhani was in Italy on Tuesday as part of a European tour aimed at drumming up investment in Iran following years of international sanctions.

He met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome’s Capitoline Museums on Monday evening — where large white boxes covered up exhibits of nude statues from ancient Rome.

Italy’s ANSA news agency said that the move to limit Rouhani’s exposure was made out of respect for Iranian culture — and that officials opted not to serve alcohol at events with the president for the same reason.

Although it wasn’t immediately clear whether Renzi’s office or the museum had made the call to cover the statues up, but if nothing else, the move united both wings of Italy’s notoriously fractious political spectrum.

Giorgia Meloni, a former minister in the government of ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and president of the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, said the move “exceeded all limits of decency” and posted on Facebook that “the only thing to cover is the face of Renzi, not our classic statues.”

Meanwhile, Gianluca Peciola, a prominent leftist activist, started a Change.org petition demanding that Renzi explain the “disgrace and humiliation” of Italy’s “violation of the principles of the secular state and national sovereignty.” The petition had 904 signatures by late Tuesday.

The museum and the mayor’s office told NBC News to contact the prime minister’s office. The prime minister’s spokesman did not return several calls and an email from NBC News.

BBC with additional report from NBC

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