Denmark tightens asylum rules further to deter migrants

Copenhagen (AFP) - Denmark on Friday unveiled tough new measures to deter refugees from coming to the country, including police searches of asylum seekers' luggage for valuables and cash.

A three-year wait for some family reunification claims and a plan to house migrants in tents has also been added to the plan.

"We are tightening access to Denmark so that fewer people come here," Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said at a press conference.

However he said Denmark would not introduce border controls like neighbouring Sweden did on Thursday.

"After less than one day of witnessing Swedish border controls, it is our assessment that border controls would lead to more asylum seekers in Denmark and not fewer," he said.

Most migrants entering Denmark continue to Sweden, which has issued permanent residency to all those fleeing Syria's civil war and expects to receive up to 190,000 asylum seekers this year.

The first Danish tent camp, housing 250 male refugees, would be set up next week in the northwestern town of Thisted, the government said.

The initiatives presented by the government also included cutting the residency of refugees covered by the UN Convention on Refugees, from five to three years while permits for those granted regular refugee status would be reduced from five to two years.

Denmark last year introduced temporary one-year residence permits for people fleeing war zones like Syria.

Under the new rules those people will have to wait for three years rather than one year before family reunifications are granted. That means only those whose residence permits are renewed would become eligible.

Danish police will be allowed to search asylum seekers and their luggage for any cash or valuables that could help pay for their stay in an asylum centre.

Items of personal significance, such as wedding rings, will be exempt.

The secretary general of the Red Cross in Denmark, Anders Ladekarl, said he "couldn't believe his ears" when he heard about the planned tent camps, and suggested their main purpose was to deter migrants from choosing Denmark.

"There is no shortage of properties with a fixed roof. Have we become a Third World country?" he told news agency Ritzau.

Compared to neighbouring Sweden, Denmark has seen a relatively modest rise in asylum applications this year, after introducing temporary residence permits, delaying family reunifications and placing adverts in Lebanese newspapers to discourage refugees.

"While countries around us have seen an explosive growth in the number of asylum seekers, developments have been ... more under control in Denmark until now," Rasmussen said, adding that 3,600 asylum claims were lodged in October and 1,200 in the past week.

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