Denmark’s parliament has voted in favour of seizing the assets of asylum seekers to help pay for their stay while their claims are processed.
The controversial law is part of a package of immigration reforms designed to make the country less appealing for migrants.
The new measures, which also delay family reunions by increasing the waiting period from one to up to three years, had cross-party support and passed with an overwhelming majority.
Out of the 109 parliamentarians who voted, 81 back the bill which was presented by the minority Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.
He was helped by the support of the opposition Social Democrats and the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party – Denmark’s two largest parties. One lawmaker abstained and 70 others were absent.
Under the new measures, valuables worth more than roughly £1,000 will be seized by police as migrants enter the country to help cover their housing and food costs.
After considerable uproar Parliament clarified that jewellery and other sentimental possessions will not be taken.
The UN and other human rights organisations have condemned the legislation, saying it breaks international laws on refugees.
Critics say separating families is inhumane and will severely affect integration efforts.
However, the Danish government says the measures have been “terribly misunderstood”.
It argued that Danes who want to qualify for social benefits may also have to sell their valuables.
Government spokesman Marcus Knuth said: “This misconception that Danish authorities would take personal valuables and so on is so, so wrong.
“We’re simply asking that if asylum seekers – in the rare case where they do come with enough means to pay for themselves then – following exactly the same rules as for Danish citizens wishing to be on unemployment benefits – if you can pay for yourself, well then you should pay for yourself, before the Danish welfare system does it.”
“This is a symbolic move to scare people away” from seeking asylum in Denmark, said Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen of the opposition left Red-Green Alliance that opposed the law.
Sky’s Ian Woods says over 70% of Danes think the migrant issue is the most important issue facing the country.
He says the adoption of the new measures, which were backed by the main-centre left opposition, reflect a marked shift to the right in Danish politics.
Denmark received 21,300 asylum-seekers, one of the highest rates per capita in the EU, last year.
The country, which has a population of 5.6 million, has introduced tougher border controls until at least early next month.
By comparison, neighbouring Sweden took 160,000 migrants last year, while Germany took over one million.