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Denmark-Refugees and the 'Jewelry Bill'

Denmark’s Parliament overwhelmingly voted to approve an attempt to curb the deluge of refugees fleeing from the wars in Africa and the Middle East for a better life in Europe. Valuables will be confiscated to pay for their stay. Reunification with families will be delayed from one to three years.

Possessions up to 1000 pounds may be kept. Valuables of special emotional value like wedding rings will be exempt. This is part of a Europe wide increasing restriction on the tide of refugees. Borders have been closed, yet still refugees are drowning in the Mediterranean in their desperation to escape. These folks have often left their homes and lives behind and only take what they can carry. It is all too reminiscent of what happened to Jewish refugees, as they were driven out of their homes by the Nazi efforts for racial purity. Human rights’ organisations are up in arms, decrying such treatment for those who have lost everything. Now even what little they have will be taken away.

Caring for refugees costs money. Refugees will be willing to pay what they can. Most are willing to work for their keep. In the late sixties, you were only allowed to take 50 pounds out of the UK. I spent a year as a student in America and had only that fifty pounds and the overwhelming generosity of my host family, who paid my fees and kept me for a year. I worked both as a babysitter and eventually for the American government in the War on Poverty programme. A Scot’s boy working with the Black Panthers is unlikely, but it meant I could afford to live decently. I didn’t want to be dependent on other people and was happy to work to survive.

Sexual misadventures and crimes against innocent women are clearly wrong and we must not judge all refuges by the few, who misuse and abuse European hospitality. Daniel and three friends were taken as captive refugees from Jerusalem to Babylon. They were chosen for their talents and background. They were given royal treatment and training. They refused to defile themselves with the king’s food and drink so ate and drank simply. They flourished compared to the other refugees. These four were literally top of the class and worked as provincial rulers. Daniel was even chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. They were refugees, driven out of their homeland, but were willing to serve and work. They still managed to keep their distinctive lifestyle and purity. It may be that becoming like Europeans is not necessarily the best thing that can happen to refugees.

This displaced people crisis needs international responses. Nations, like individuals, can be generous or mean spirited. We can honour people’s desire to work and help them work to pay their way. Justice does not remove everything that people have worked for, saved or owned (by themselves or their families). We can find pathways for safe transit and genuine assistance in resettlement. It is not easy to be a stranger in a strange land, but welcoming the stranger and those in need is part of Christian teaching, life and being human. 

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