Denmark debates plans to seize migrants' valuables

The Danish parliament is debating on Wednesday whether to introduce measures to seize refugees' possessions to help pay for their stay in the country as part stringent new immigration laws.

The move comes amid an increasingly hardline approach to refugees and migration: The German government – previously welcoming to migrants – plans changes to immigration laws to make deportation easier.

On Tuesday, Danish lawmakers agreed to back proposed changes to immigration laws including measures to take away refugees' possessions worth above 10,000 Danish crowns ($1,456.60) to pay for their stay, excluding sentimental items such as wedding rings and basics such as mobile phones, Reuters reported.

Danish policeman prepare to board a train arriving from Germany in order to check the identity papers of passengers on January 6, 2016 in Padborg, Denmark.
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Danish policeman prepare to board a train arriving from Germany in order to check the identity papers of passengers on January 6, 2016 in Padborg, Denmark.

The proposals are to be debated by the Danish government this afternoon, a parliamentary press officer told CNBC, although as far as he understood it was the first debate and the measures had to be debated three times in the chamber.

The minority center-right government proposed the measures which were given tacit support Tuesday. The minority government relies on the support of other parties, such as the anti-immigration Danish People's Party, for support.

The United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) criticized the proposals, saying last Thursday that they were an "affront" to refugees' dignity, Reuters reported.

More than one million migrants have arrived in Europe in 2015, according to the UNHCR, fleeing war and persecution in the Middle East and parts of Africa in search of a better life in Germany, particularly in more prosperous northern countries.

While some countries in Europe – such as Germany – welcomed migrants at the height of the influx in late summer, the sheer amounts of people arriving has prompted others, such as Sweden and Denmark, to re-impose border checks.

Public sentiment against the newcomers has also soured following reports a spate of sexual assaults against women allegedly carried out by men described to be of Arab or North African origin in a number of German cities on New Year's Eve.

A further report of similar sexual assaults in Sweden, allegedly carried out by Afghan refugees at a music festival in 2014 – which the Swedish police are accused of covering up – has also put pressure on politicians.

Amid a rising tide of public anger at the authorities for failing to tackle alleged crimes carried out by immigrants, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to introduce laws to make it easier to deport asylum-seekers convicted of committing crimes in Germany.

That legislation requires Cabinet and parliamentary approval and is due to be debated by the Bundestag throughout the week, according to German state broadcaster, Deutsche Welle.

A press officer for the German parliament told CNBC that events in Cologne on New Year's Eve were due to be debated this afternoon, from 1pm local time (midday GMT) but had no further knowledge of the debate.

- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt. Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.