Denmark’s plan to seize asylum seekers’ valuables and cash has provoked international outrage - but there is one key part to the law that may have a far bigger impact on refugees.
Plans to search new arrivals and take anything worth more than 10,000 kroner (£1,000) to cover their housing and food costs is just one of a raft of new measures approved by the Danish parliament on Tuesday.
Critics likened the practice to the treatment of Jews by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, but some human rights groups were more concerned by changes to family reunification laws.
The waiting period before refugees can apply for their spouses and children to join them has been raised from one year to three, potentially stranding vulnerable people in conflict zones or elsewhere on the migration route through Europe, activists said.
The Danish government itself acknowledged that the change may be incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects the right to a family life, but argued that family members only have “limited” links to the country.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said family unity is a “fundamental and important human right” ensured by a number of regional and international laws ratified by Denmark.
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In its report on the legislation, it said the proposals were “evidently aimed at conveying a message to make it ‘less attractive’ to seek asylum in Denmark, and is a deeply concerning response to humanitarian needs”.
“It should be a priority to ensure that Syrians can join family members who are residing in European States, as a legal entry channel,” the UNHCR report said.
“This would also contribute to reducing the number of persons now having no other options for reaching safety but to embark on dangerous boat or risky overland journeys.”
Family reunion laws allow the children, partners and spouses of those given protection to legally join them in Europe, with permission to stay for the same period.
Many of the men who have reached Italy and Greece this year have risked the treacherous smuggling routes and sea journeys alone while their families remain in Syria and other warzones, planning to gain family reunion permits so they can join them safely.
But Denmark’s delay could force dependent wives and children to resort to smugglers instead, risking abuse, exploitation and drowning on overcrowded boats.
The UNHCR also said that family separations can have “devastating consequences” on the well-being of both adults and children, as well as damaging the integration process.
Amnesty International accused Denmark of forcing families to make an "impossible choice" between taking children and loved ones on potentially deadly journeys or leaving them behind in "the horrors of war".
“To prolong the suffering of vulnerable people who have been ripped apart from their families by conflict or persecution is plain wrong,” John Dalhuisen, the group’s Europe and Central Asia Director said.
“The mean-spirited vote in Danish Parliament seeks not only to pilfer the possessions refugees cling to, but also to needlessly lengthen their separation from their loved ones.”
Andreas Kamm, from the Danish Refugee Council, said family reunification delays were “very worrying and very inhumane”, leaving vulnerable groups in conflict zones.
Refugee crisis - in pictures
Refugee crisis - in pictures
A child looks through the fence at the Moria detention camp for migrants and refugees at the island of Lesbos on May 24, 2016.
Ahmad Zarour, 32, from Syria, reacts after his rescue by MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) while attempting to reach the Greek island of Agathonisi, Dodecanese, southeastern Agean Sea
Syrian migrants holding life vests gather onto a pebble beach in the Yesil liman district of Canakkale, northwestern Turkey, after being stopped by Turkish police in their attempt to reach the Greek island of Lesbos on 29 January 2016.
Refugees flash the 'V for victory' sign during a demonstration as they block the Greek-Macedonian border
Migrants have been braving sub zero temperatures as they cross the border from Macedonia into Serbia.
A sinking boat is seen behind a Turkish gendarme off the coast of Canakkale's Bademli district on January 30, 2016. At least 33 migrants drowned on January 30 when their boat sank in the Aegean Sea while trying to cross from Turkey to Greece.
A general view of a shelter for migrants inside a hangar of the former Tempelhof airport in Berlin, Germany
Refugees protest behind a fence against restrictions limiting passage at the Greek-Macedonian border, near Gevgelija. Since last week, Macedonia has restricted passage to northern Europe to only Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans who are considered war refugees. All other nationalities are deemed economic migrants and told to turn back. Macedonia has finished building a fence on its frontier with Greece becoming the latest country in Europe to build a border barrier aimed at checking the flow of refugees
A father and his child wait after being caught by Turkish gendarme on 27 January 2016 at Canakkale's Kucukkuyu district
Migrants make hand signals as they arrive into the southern Spanish port of Malaga on 27 January, 2016 after an inflatable boat carrying 55 Africans, seven of them women and six chidren, was rescued by the Spanish coast guard off the Spanish coast.
A refugee holds two children as dozens arrive on an overcrowded boat on the Greek island of Lesbos
A child, covered by emergency blankets, reacts as she arrives, with other refugees and migrants, on the Greek island of Lesbos, At least five migrants including three children, died after four boats sank between Turkey and Greece, as rescue workers searched the sea for dozens more, the Greek coastguard said
Migrants wait under outside the Moria registration camp on the Lesbos. Over 400,000 people have landed on Greek islands from neighbouring Turkey since the beginning of the year
The bodies of Christian refugees are buried separately from Muslim refugees at the Agios Panteleimonas cemetery in Mytilene, Lesbos
Macedonian police officers control a crowd of refugees as they prepare to enter a camp after crossing the Greek border into Macedonia near Gevgelija
A refugee tries to force the entry to a camp as Macedonian police officers control a crowd after crossing the Greek border into Macedonia near Gevgelija
Refugees are seen aboard a Turkish fishing boat as they arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast to Lesbos
An elderly woman sings a lullaby to baby on a beach after arriving with other refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey
A man collapses as refugees make land from an overloaded rubber dinghy after crossing the Aegean see from Turkey, at the island of Lesbos
A girl reacts as refugees arrive by boat on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey
Refugees make a show of hands as they queue after crossing the Greek border into Macedonia near Gevgelija
People help a wheelchair user board a train with others, heading towards Serbia, at the transit camp for refugees near the southern Macedonian town of Gevgelija
Refugees board a train, after crossing the Greek-Macedonian border, near Gevgelija. Macedonia is a key transit country in the Balkans migration route into the EU, with thousands of asylum seekers - many of them from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia - entering the country every day
An aerial picture shows the "New Jungle" refugee camp where some 3,500 people live while they attempt to enter Britain, near the port of Calais, northern France
A Syrian girl reacts as she helped by a volunteer upon her arrival from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos, after having crossed the Aegean Sea
Refugees arrive by boat on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey
Beds ready for use for migrants and refugees are prepared at a processing center on January 27, 2016 in Passau, Germany. The flow of migrants arriving in Passau has dropped to between 500 and 1,000 per day, down significantly from last November, when in the same region up to 6,000 migrants were arriving daily.
Jonas Christoffersen, the director of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, accused Denmark of violating international law.
He told Al Jazeera: “The right of refugees to be reunited with their family is protected by numerous international conventions ratified by Denmark.
“We believe the government is overstepping international law by implementing this bill.”
Denmark’s new laws have also shortened residence permits from five years to two and restricted the conditions for obtaining the permanent right to stay.
Officials have been authorised to additionally consider “integration potential” in resettlement cases and increase administrative fees.
Denmark had already tightened its immigration laws last year, when it received 21,300 asylum applications, by reducing benefits for asylum seekers and stepping up efforts to deport those whose applications are rejected.
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