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Denmark's Far-Right Party Argues Migrants Should Help Pay for Their Stay


Here's a problem many European nations face. They are obliged to admit Middle Eastern refugees, but many nations are reluctant to admit too many.


As we've reported, Denmark is the latest country working to limit exposure to refugees. Legislators there have passed a new law demanding the assets of asylum seekers. And we've been talking with a Danish lawmaker who approves.

INSKEEP: Martin Henriksen is with the far right Danish People's Party. He is among those who say migrants should pay for their asylum in Denmark by surrendering any cash they're carrying beyond 1,500 U.S. dollars. This move has sparked an outcry, but Henriksen told us he would like to go further. He wishes he could find out if asylum seekers have real estate or bank accounts that could be seized.

MARTIN HENRIKSEN: We're working on that part. My party believes there should also be a possibility to look into what they have in other countries or in their homelands. So this is not a part of this piece of legislation, but it is something that we are - we continue to work with that opportunity.

INSKEEP: That opportunity- you're saying you'd like to do that if you find a technical way to do it?

HENRIKSEN: Sure. You must remember that Denmark has received many refugees throughout many years. And it's a costly business. We also have a political desire to take care of our own. And we believe that when these people have worked their entire lives in Denmark, then they should be first on the list. Today we are paying for all expenses for asylum seekers and refugees. And we are simply saying that if you have the possibility to pay for yourself, then you should do so.

INSKEEP: But I'm sure you've heard about the way that this is interpreted and understood by many people around the world. You have favored this law that causes the government to say to people in this desperate situation where they may have no choice, give us all your assets except for a little spending money. What do you say to people who find that to be outrageously unfair?

HENRIKSEN: Actually, the people who are coming to Denmark are the people with the most resources. I'm not saying that they are rich - not at all. But the refugees or the migrants who come to Europe and to Denmark are the people who have the resources to pay a person or several persons to smuggle them into Europe.

INSKEEP: Although the very nature of your law points out an interesting fact about many of the refugees - they're not necessarily people with no education, with no skills. And I'm thinking about The Economist magazine, which not long ago urged European nations to welcome migrants or refugees because they could add something economically to countries that wanted. Why would you put the new arrivals in a position where they start out broke, impoverished?

HENRIKSEN: Well, we have been dealing refugees and migrants in Denmark for many, many years, and the picture is not what the economists are saying. It's the opposite. If you look at migration from non-Western countries, it's not making the Danish economy any better. It's making the Danish economy worse. Actually, I think that if you want a secure society, then we have to reduce the number of people coming into Denmark, for instance, from the Middle East. Also, because we have a different set of values, we are on many levels simply too different to make it work. Now, it would be great if we could make it work. But all our experiences say that it is, sad to say, not possible.

INSKEEP: Have we finally there gotten down to what this legislation is really about? It's not about money. It's about keeping out people who are different.

HENRIKSEN: I have no problem with people who are different. They just have to respect our laws and our traditions in Denmark. So to answer your question, sure, I guess we believe that it's a matter of making sure that the number is kept down.

INSKEEP: Martin Hendrickson of the Danish People's Party. Thanks for sharing your views.

HENRIKSEN: Thank you.

INSKEEP: He favors a new law demanding the assets of asylum seekers in Denmark. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.