Abroad, the controversial paragraph soon became known as the "jewelry law" and attracted worldwide attention and mostly criticism. The Danish government later said that jewelry and other assets of sentimental value would be excluded, despite previous uncertainty on that issue. But that clarification did not stop the criticism, which led to fears in Denmark that the country was risking its international reputation, as the government continued to push for the law to be passed.
That's why it is all the more surprising to see what happened since then: pretty much nothing.
Nearly four months after the law was implemented, Danish police have yet to seize an item or valuable from a refugee. A police spokesman told The Washington Post in an email, "We have not seized any money or valuables" through May 13, the most recent date the data was available.
The Danish government had argued that the law would help to pay for the refugees' stay in the country. Similar practices are in place in Switzerland and Germany, for instance. Moreover, unemployed Danes applying for welfare benefits might also have certain valuables seized. According to the Danish government, legislation affecting Danes is similar to the more recent law that affects refugees.
But to critics, the fact that this part of the Danish immigration bill was implemented at the peak of Europe's refugee crisis and has never been used points at another conclusion: "I agree with those that say the law was a message rather than anything else," said Anders Ladekarl, the general secretary of the Danish Red Cross. Immigration experts argued early on that few refugees would arrive with valuables exceeding the legal threshold.
Government officials vehemently denied that the law was designed as a threat to refugees to stop them from coming to Denmark. In a statement in January, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen called it the "most misunderstood law" in the country's history.
Officials at the Danish Ministry of Immigration, Integration and Housing were unavailable to comment on the law Wednesday. Emailed interview requests to the center-right Liberal Party, which runs Denmark's minority government, went unanswered.
In previous interviews, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen — spokesman for the Liberal Party — defended the country's increasingly skeptical stance toward the influx of refugees: "Denmark is one of the countries in the world who contributes the most to solving this humanitarian crisis. Compared to our size, we are among the five largest contributors of development aid in the world," Ellemann-Jensen told The Post in January.
At that time, Ellemann-Jensen also suggested that the government expected the law not to be a significant revenue source. "As part of the processing of asylum cases, the authorities will if necessary look into the asylum seeker’s financial conditions. And in reality, this bill will of course not apply to the majority of refugees coming to Denmark."
"It will only apply to a small minority, and it is not a question of economics, rather a question of fairness to treat refugees and Danes alike," Ellemann-Jensen said.