Southern German states confiscate refugee valuables

EPA/ARMIN WEIGEL

Refugees walk to a special train to Duesseldorf at the train station in Passau, Germany, 16 January 2016. The train will tranport these migrants to live in federal state North Rhine-Westphalia. Destinations change daily to distribute refugees all over Germany.

Besides Denmark and Switzerland, some German states confiscate refugee’s valuables worth over €350. The states justify their action on German federal laws.


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The confiscation of refugee’s valuables is also happening in Germany, according to a report by German tabloid, Bild.

According to Bild, Southern German States require from asylum seekers to hand over their valuables before receiving any state aid. The Local Germany which cited the Bild article said that authorities in the Bavarian State confiscate valuables worth over €750 but authorities in Baden-Württemberg have a tougher regime, where police confiscate cash and valuables above €350.

“The practice in Bavaria and the federal rules set out in law correspond in substance with the process in Switzerland,” Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann told Bild on Thursday and added. “Cash holdings and valuables can be secured [by the authorities] if they are over €750 and if the person has an outstanding bill, or is expected to have one.”

Stephan Dünnwald of the Bavarian Refugee Council also told German broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, that confiscation of valuables had long been standard practice in the Southern German states: “The refugees get a receipt for whatever they have on them, and then that money is used for any expenses the state incurs – usually they calculate around €400 (£306) a month. That’s part of German law – nothing to do with any new restrictions.”

The fact that authorities in Bavaria want a tougher refugee policy is well known as the leader of the Christian Social Union – the Bavarian sister party of the Christian Democrats (CDU) – Horst Seehofer repeatedly disagrees with the German Chancellor and leader of the CDU, Angela Merkel, about refugee issues.

However, even Aydan Özoguz, the federal government’s integration commissioner and member of the left-centre Social Democrats (SPD) justified the confiscation measure saying that it’s socially fair.

“If you apply for asylum here, you must use up your income and wealth before receiving aid,” Özoguz told Bild and added. “That includes, for example, family jewellery. Even if some prejudices persist – you don’t have it any better as an asylum seeker as someone on unemployment benefit.”

Few criticize the confiscation measure in Germany

Weeks ago, the UN refugee agency UNHCR condemned Denmark’s decision to confiscate the refugee’s valuables. On 13 January, UNHCR spokesperson William Spinder said that the measure is inhumane.

“Refugees have lost their homes and almost everything they possess,” he told VICE News and added. “It beggars belief that somebody would want to strip them away from the little they have managed to salvage from their lives.”

Despite the fact that the confiscation of refugee’s valuables draws a lot of criticism by the international community, few parties in the German parliament criticize the measure.

According to the Local Germany, opposition Green party MP Volker Beck told Der Tagesspiegel that the confiscation measure is fair. “Of course asylum seekers aren’t in a better position than those on unemployment benefits,” Beck said and added. “Asylum seekers must repay the costs of accommodation and care to the state.”

The Local reported that only Die Linke, the German left-wing party, criticized the confiscations, with MP Ulla Jelpke telling Der Tagesspiegel that “those who apply for asylum are exercising their basic rights [under the German Constititution]…That must not – even if they are rejected – be tied up with costs,” she said.

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