04:29 - Source: CNN
Denmark passes controversial refugee law

Story highlights

NEW: Germany plans to tighten rules on asylum-seekers; Dutch propose sending migrants back to Turkey

In England and Wales, asylum-seekers felt publicly identified and stigmatized

Denmark passes bill allowing confiscation of migrants' cash and valuables

Editor’s Note: This story first published Jan. 27. It was updated with additional information on Jan. 29.

CNN  — 

Some voices suggest Europe welcomes newcomers too easily and enfolds them too readily in its warm and lucrative embrace.

But for families escaping the war in Syria and other places affected by war or poverty, the obstacles can be numerous, the challenges profuse and – in some cases – the stigmatization painful.

This week Denmark passed the “jewelry bill,” allowing authorities to seize cash and valuables from asylum-seekers to ensure they contribute to the welfare state. Sometimes asylum-seekers have been publicly identified. In one English town, all their homes had red doors. In Wales, they had to wear wristbands to receive meals

“I think what we’re seeing is kind of a backlash against migration, in this context, because the numbers are so high,” said Leonard Doyle, a spokesman for the Geneva, Switzerland-based International Organization for Migration.

Governments, groups and citizens in some countries have welcomed migrants. But these open doors have been tested, prompting some to revisit their policies. Germany – long hailed as one of the continent’s most welcoming countries – has pushed forward plans to relax deportation rules for foreign criminals and to tighten up rules for asylum-seekers, including instituting a two-year ban on family reunions.

Meanwhile, the migrants keep coming. The International Organization for Migration reported Friday that more than 55,000 had already made it to the continent via the Mediterranean Sea in the first 28 days of January. Another 244 died at sea in the same period. More than 1 million migrants crossed into Europe through “irregular arrivals” in 2015.

Finland estimates it will expel 20,000 of the 32,000 who sought asylum last year, a Finnish Interior Ministry representative said Friday. And the Netherlands, which holds the European Union presidency, is proposing that migrants who arrive on Greek islands be immediately sent by ferry to Turkey, Dutch Labor Party spokesman Tim Leeuwerke said. In return, EU states could take in up to 250,000 refugees currently in Turkish camps.

Doyle noted anti-immigration parties in various countries, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom, have benefited from fear over migration.

That fear, he said, is serious – “and it is contagious.”

Here are some of the ways migrants have been blocked, marked and thwarted in Europe:

Denmark passes ‘jewelry bill’

Danish lawmakers approved legislation Tuesday allowing authorities to confiscate cash and valuables from asylum-seekers to help cover their expenses. The new law allows the seizure of valuables worth more than 10,000 Danish kroner (about $1,450).

Items of “special sentimental value” are exempted, the Danish Ministry of Immigration, Integration and Housing said. But immigrants can be stripped of their watches, mobile phones and computers.

The legislation appalled many Danes, who have a reputation for tolerance.

Amnesty International criticized the law, saying it reflected a “dismal race to the bottom” by European countries in response to the migrant crisis. And the approval of the bill reportedly prompted the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei to close his exhibition at the Faurschou Foundation in Copenhagen.

Hungary, Slovenia build fences to halve migrant flow

If a country wants to tell people to “Keep Out,” few ways of conveying that message can be more blunt than building a wall.

That’s what Hungary and Slovenia have been doing.

Migrants walk from Hungary into Austria in September.

Hungary has been erecting a barbed-wire fence along its border with Serbia. And Slovenia has been putting up a razor-wire fence on its border with Croatia.

Message sent. But French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has accused those countries of not respecting European values.

“Hungary is very severe,” Fabius said. “Hungary is part of Europe. Europe has some values, and it doesn’t respect these values. Like this razor-wire barrier they built.”

Hungary criminalizes undocumented border crossing

Of course, there are ways a country can add even more emphasis to the “Keep Out” message – and that is to add stiff penalties for crossing the border.

Migrants face pepper spray and tear gas in September in Horgos, Serbia.

Hungary has done that as well. As of September, migrants who cross its border with Serbia have risked not just deportation but three years in a Hungarian prison.

That border is a common crossing point for people wanting to enter the EU in hopes of finding prosperity in countries such as Germany.

“Anyone crossing the border illegally only has the right to do so if their life was in danger,” Hungarian Justice Minister Laszlo Trocsanyi told reporters.

“We assume everyone is safe in Serbia,” he said, with a certain sarcasm, referring to the fact that Serbia is at peace rather than at war.

Asylum-seekers in Wales wear wristbands to get dinner

Asylum-seekers in Cardiff, Wales, were required recently to wear wristbands to show they were entitled to receive meals.

Following a public outcry, the company contracted by the UK government to provide accommodation to asylum-seekers dropped the policy, which critics slammed as dehumanizing. Some observers compared it to the requirement in Nazi Germany that Jews wear yellow stars.

Clearsprings Ready Homes, which provided accommodation services for newly arrived asylum-seekers in a facility in Cardiff, said the wristbands had been used since May.

In a statement, the company said it would “look for an alternative way of managing the fair provision of support.”

First Minister Carwyn Jones, who leads the Welsh government, issued a statement before Clearsprings announced the change, saying the use of wristbands was “completely unacceptable and goes against everything we stand for as a nation.”

Red doors unintentionally mark asylum-seekers in town

Also in January, the British government ordered an urgent review of allegations that asylum-seekers in the northeastern English town of Middlesbrough were being housed in homes with the doors all painted red – making some residents the targets of abuse.

British newspapers said this practice, too – perhaps unintentionally – carried disturbing echoes of policies in Germany before World War II.

But the International Organization for Migration’s Doyle dismissed the comparisons.

“I’m not aware of anyone being put into the gas chamber over this, so let’s keep our perspective here,” he said.

Still, British Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said he was “deeply concerned” after media reports that asylum-seekers had had eggs and stones thrown at their houses because the red doors gave away their immigration status.

“If we find any evidence of discrimination against asylum-seekers, it will be dealt with immediately, as any such behavior will not be tolerated,” Brokenshire said.

The company responsible for asylum-seeker housing in the region, G4S, told CNN there was “categorically no policy to house asylum-seekers behind red doors.”

A subcontractor working for G4S, Jomast, had used red paint on all properties serviced by the company.

Still, the subcontractor was going to repaint the doors involved so that no color predominated, a G4S statement said.