Denmark’s lawmakers will vote on January 26 on a highly controversial proposal to confiscate asylum seekers’ valuables to pay for their upkeep.
The proposal drew sharp criticism in Denmark and abroad when it was announced earlier this month.
Danish authorities insist the policy brings refugees in line with jobless Danes, who must sell assets above a certain level to claim benefits.
With broad cross-party support, the bill looks set to pass into law.
The Danish government will also vote on another controversial proposal – delaying family reunifications for refugees in an attempt to discourage them from travelling to the country.
Denmark expects to receive around 20,000 asylum seekers in 2016, compared with 15,000 in 2015.
The country insists that the new laws are needed to stem the flow of refugees, despite both Denmark and Sweden recently tightening their borders.
Many have compared the plan to the confiscation of valuables from Jews during the World War II.
Integration Minister Inger Stoejberg was forced to announce that no items deemed sentimental would be taken. The law would apply to cash or assets worth more than 10,000 kroner ($1,450) – a figure raised from 3,000 kroner following objections.
UN refugee agency the UNHCR has warned that the proposals violate the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the UN Refugee Convention.
Both the ruling center-right Venstre party and the right-wing, anti-immigration Danish People’s Party back the bill, meaning it is likely to pass.
PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen of the Venstre party has shrugged off criticism, calling the bill “the most misunderstood bill in Denmark’s history”.
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has welcomed the first 163 Syrian refugees to his country.
The first military plane carrying Syrian refugees has landed at Pearson on December 10.
Justin Trudeau said Canada was “showing the world how to open our hearts”.
The newly elected Liberal government has pledged to take in 25,000 refugees by the end of February 2016.
Canada’s stance on the issue differs sharply to that of the US, which has been reluctant to take in refugees.
Another military plane is due in Montreal on December 12.
Immigration Minister John McCallum said all 10 provinces in Canada are in favor of accepting the refugees.
“This is a great moment for Canada,” he said.
“This shows the way we really are. It truly is a non-partisan, national project.”
Photo The Canadian Press
Since early November, hundreds of Syrians have already arrived in Canada via commercial aircraft.
A total of about 300 Syrians will arrive this week.
The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest-circulation daily newspaper, ran a cover story on December 10 welcoming the refugees.
The US administration has said it will take in 10,000 refugees over the next year. Some Republican governors have unsuccessfully tried to keep them from coming to their states after deadly terrorist attacks in France and California.
Leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said after the California attacks that all Muslims should be blocked from coming to the US, drawing condemnation across the globe.
About 800 refugees are going through screening tests in Lebanon and Jordan daily, John McCallum said.
Justin Trudeau, who swept the October 19 Canadian elections, has a different stance on refugees from that of his predecessor, the conservative Stephen Harper, who did not wish to resettle more people.
Unaccompanied men will be excluded from the resettlement program, but officials said this had nothing to do with national security concerns.
“We want them to have a roof over their head, and the right support,” said John McCallum.
“It takes a bit of time to put that all in place. We’re happy to take a little more time than originally planned to bring our new friends into the country.”
Those who will be considered refugees include families, women deemed to be at risk, and gay men and women.
Dozens of Democrats joined Republicans as the House of Representatives has passed a bill that tightens restrictions on the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, amid security concerns.
The House passed the measure 289-137, in a rebuke to the White House.
President Barack Obama has said he will veto the legislation.
The bill follows the ISIS-led attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead.
Seven of the perpetrators died in the attacks, and one of them is thought to have been a Syrian who entered Europe via Greece with migrants.
The bill still needs to pass the Senate before hitting Barack Obama’s desk.
It would require the head of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence to sign off on each refugee as being “not a threat to the security of the United States,” following an FBI background check.
Calling the Paris attacks “a game changer”, Rep Brad Ashford, a Democrat from Nebraska, said: “I cannot sit back and ignore the concerns of my constituents and the American public.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he supported the bill because “it is against the values of our nation and the values of a free society to give terrorists the opening they are looking for”.
Others urged compassion for those fleeing the war-torn regions.
“Defeating terrorism should not mean slamming the door in the faces of those fleeing the terrorists,” said Rep Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York.
“We might as well take down the Statue of Liberty.”
Republicans do not have the votes to override Barack Obama’s veto, but say that their affirmative vote in symbolic.
Rand Paul, a senator from Kentucky who is currently running for president, has highlighted a 2011 case in his home state of two Iraqi refugees who schemed to send rifles, missiles and money to al-Qaeda against US troops in Iraqi. They are now imprisoned.
The White House has said that 2,174 Syrians have been admitted to the US since the attacks in September 2001, and noted that none of them has been arrested or deported for terror offences.
Millions of Syrians have fled to neighboring countries and to Europe since the Syrian conflict began about four years ago.
The Obama administration announced in September that it wanted to resettle about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the US by the same time in 2016.
Roanoke Mayor David Bowers has come under criticism in Virginia after he appeared to endorse the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
In a letter, Mayor David Bowers wrote that Syrian refugees should not be resettled in his city, citing security concerns.
To highlight the point, David Bowers, a Democrat, compared the concern over the refugees to the 1940s internment of Japanese Americans.
The internment camps – now considered illegal – are widely considered to be an embarrassing period in US history.
“I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and it appears that threat of harm to America from [ISIS] now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then,” David Bowers wrote.
Photo Washington Post
More than 30 US governors have said they do not want Syria refugees resettled in their states after recent attacks in Paris tied to ISIS killed 129 people.
Although the governors do not have the legal authority to do so, they can complicate the resettlement process. President Barack Obama called their response “hysterical”.
Virginia Republicans sought to distance themselves from David Bowers’ remarks.
“Comparing the prudent step of pausing to evaluate a vetting processes to the unconstitutional internment of American citizens proves that Democrats simply don’t understand national security,” John Whitbeck, the chairman of the Virginia Republican Party, said in a statement.
The letter drew also ridicule on social media with celebrities condemning David Bowers.
Actor and Japanese-American George Takei wrote on Facebook: “Mayor Bowers, there are a few key points of history you seem to have missed.”
“The internment [not a “sequester”] was not of Japanese “foreign nationals,” but of Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were US citizens,” George Takei wrote.
“I was one of them, and my family and I spent four years in prison camps because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbour. It is my life’s mission to never let such a thing happen again in America.”
At a New Hampshire rally, Donald Trump talked about the current refugee crisis saying that he would send home all Syrian refugees the US accepts, if he becomes president.
The Republican presidential frontrunner said: “If I win, they’re going back.”
It marks a reversal in policy – earlier this month Donald Trump told Fox News the US should take in more refugees.
A refugee crisis has gripped parts of Europe and the US has pledged to take 10,000 refugees from Syria in 2016.
Half a million people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe in 2015, with the largest number from Syria, where 250,000 people have been killed in a civil war.
On September 30, Donald Trump told an audience at Keene High School: “I hear we want to take in 200,000 Syrians. And they could be – listen, they could be ISIS [Islamic State].”
Describing them as a “200,000-man army”, the billionaire later added: “I’m putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, if I win, they’re going back.”
Donald Trump has made immigration a central plank of his election campaign, pledging to build a wall on the southern border.
He was harshly criticized after saying undocumented Mexican immigrants were “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists”.
Donald Trump’s latest comments about sending Syrians home are more in line with his hardline immigration policy, although at odds with what he said earlier this month.
Asked whether he thought some of the migrants travelling into Europe should be allowed in the US, the business mogul said: “I hate the concept of it, but on a humanitarian basis, with what’s happening, you have to.”
Donald Trump blamed President Barack Obama for the crisis and added: “It’s living in hell in Syria. They are living in hell.”
The US has allowed 1,500 Syrians to re-settle since the start of the conflict four years ago.
A number of Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, have urged the US to increase the number of Syrians from 10,000 to 65,000.
Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged to take more refugees worldwide, raising the yearly cap from 70,000 to 85,000 in 2016 and to 100,000 in 2017.
Hungary police have used tear gas and water cannon to force refugees back from the Serbian border.
Hundreds of refugees have massed at a closed crossing point near the Serbian town of Horgos, and are involved in a tense stand-off with police on the other side of the border.
Some migrants threw missiles, including stones and water bottles.
Many of the refugees want to reach Germany, amid divisions within the EU over how to deal with the crisis.
Tens of thousands of people have crossed into Hungary to enter the EU’s Schengen zone, which normally allows people to travel between member countries without restrictions.
Hungary closed its entire border with Serbia on September 15 after making it illegal to enter the country or damage a new razor-wire border fence. The country’s courts have started fast-track trials of arrested migrants.
Serbia’s foreign ministry – which has protested over the firing of tear gas and water cannon into its territory – says Hungary has now closed the main border crossing between the two countries to all traffic for 30 days.
Photo Getty Images
There were chaotic scenes near Horgos, with fires burning and police vehicles and ambulances arriving on the Serbian side of the border, across from massed ranks of riot police on the Hungarian side.
The Hungarian government says 20 police officers were injured as migrants tried to break through a gate.
The firing of tear gas and water cannon created a stampede of migrants away from the border.
Several people received treatment from the Serbian ambulance service, some suffering the effects of tear gas.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he is “shocked” by the treatment of migrants.
Serbian minister Aleksandar Vulin, visiting the scene, said the migrants’ frustration was understandable after Hungary closed the border.
“Hungary must show it is ready and capable to accept these people,” he said.
Serbia has said it will send additional police to its border with Hungary and try to distance migrants from the fence.
“The aim is to prevent further attacks on the Hungarian police from our territory and in a humane and respectful way distance the migrants from the fence and the Hungarian police,” said Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic in a statement.
Meanwhile, Croatia has said it will allow migrants to travel on to northern Europe, opening up a new route a day after Hungary sealed its border with Serbia.
A steady stream of migrants is crossing into Croatia from Serbia, with some of those stranded on Serbia’s border with Hungary now using the same route.
Croatian PM Zoran Milanovic said: “We are ready to accept and direct those people… to where they apparently wish to go.”
In a “state of the union” annual address in front of the European Parliament, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has announced plans that offer a “swift, determined and comprehensive” response to Europe’s migrant crisis.
Under the proposals, 120,000 additional asylum seekers will be distributed among EU countries, with binding quotas.
It comes after a surge of thousands of mainly Syrian migrants pushed north through Europe in recent days.
Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament it was “not a time to take fright”.
He was heckled by UK anti-European Union politician Nigel Farage, but dismissed his comments as “worthless”.
Germany, the main destination for many migrants, supports quotas, but some EU countries oppose a compulsory system.
Hungary – a key point on a migrant route – has been warned to expect an additional 40,000 migrants by the end of next week.
In a separate development Australia, which has been under pressure to do more to help displaced people, has announced plans to take in more Syrian refugees.
The Australian government said it would accept 12,000 Syrian refugees from persecuted minorities.
During his address, Jean-Claude Juncker outlined the priorities of the European Commission.
He opened his speech by admitting the European Union was “not in a good situation… There is a lack of Europe in this union, and a lack of union in this union”.
He said tackling the crisis was “a matter of humanity and human dignity”.
“It is true that Europe cannot house all the misery in the world. But we have to put it into perspective.
“This still represents just 0.11% of the EU population. In Lebanon refugees represent 25% of the population, which has just a fifth of the wealth of the EU. Who are we to never make such comparisons?”
Among Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposals:
EU member states to accept their share of an additional 120,000 refugees, building upon proposed quotas to relocate 40,000 refugees which were set out in May (though governments then only actually agreed to take 32,000)
A permanent relocation system to “deal with crisis situations more swiftly in the future”
Commission to propose list of “safe countries” to which migrants would generally have to return
Efforts to strengthen the EU’s common asylum system
A review of the so-called Dublin system, which states that people must claim asylum in the state where they first enter the EU
Better management of external borders and better legal channels for migration
“It’s 160,000 refugees in total that Europeans have to take into their arms and I really hope that this time everyone will be on board – no rhetoric, action is what is needed,” Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament.
The proposals will be discussed by EU home affairs ministers on September 14 in Brussels.
The new plans would relocate 60% of those now in Italy, Greece and Hungary to Germany, France and Spain.
The numbers distributed to each country would depend on GDP, population, unemployment rate and asylum applications already processed.
Countries refusing to take in migrants could face financial penalties.
The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Romania have opposed the idea of mandatory quotas.
On September 8, though, Poland appeared to soften its position. PM Ewa Kopacz said Poland would accept more migrants than the 2,000 it first offered to take.
Germany has welcomed Syrian migrants, waiving EU rules and saying it expects to deal with 800,000 asylum seekers this year alone – though not all will qualify as refugees and some will be sent back.
The mass migration has seen those seeking an end to persecution, conflict and hardship travel by boat, bus, train and on foot, from Turkey, across the sea to Greece, through Macedonia and Serbia, and then to Hungary from where they aim to reach Austria, Germany and Sweden.
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