I WAS disappointed to see a recent poll from YouGov which suggested that a majority of people in the UK supported the confiscation of assets from refugees.

This issue came back into prominence again with the new legislation in Denmark which seeks to confiscate asylum seekers’ valuables if they are valued above a certain figure (about £1,000). The idea is that such assets could be used to pay for housing and food costs but there is also the element of using this legislation as a deterrent, to make the country less attractive to refugees.

A number of people and organisations have questioned the ethics of this approach to treating refugees. To many people it raises the spectre of the Nazis confiscating gold and other valuables from Jews and others fleeing their persecution during the Second World War. Amnesty International has condemned the new law as likely to “prolong the suffering of vulnerable people who have been ripped apart from their families by conflict or persecution”.

However, Denmark is not alone in this, both Switzerland and the Netherlands have similar legislation although with differing values before confiscation of personal goods takes place. Two regions in Germany have also followed suite, with both Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, imposing confiscation policies on refugees.

There is a refugee crisis just now in Europe as hundreds of thousands flee warzones in Syria, and the reaction of some countries (and regions) in establishing these confiscation policies is a reflection of that. The money raised from these policies will not raise much when compared to the total cost of looking after refugees. The Danish example highlights what may be at the root of this issue – the desire of some countries to seem less attractive to refugees – in the hope that they will choose to relocate elsewhere. However, it has to be said that most of these countries have taken in far more refugees than the UK.

However, such policies will do little to deter those seeking to escape the threats of death, violence and torture from Syria and elsewhere. These are desperate people with only one aim – to survive. For some its persecution for being on the wrong side of civil war and for most it’s because they can’t stay in their own homes for fear of bombs falling out of the sky and killing them and their families. They don’t have any other options but to grab their families and seek refuge from the horrors they currently face. It’s bad enough leaving all that they know behind, including family and friends, but then even if they do manage to reach a safe country they are faced with border guards and security fences before now being stripped of the few personal belongings they have.

Like many people I have serious concerns about such policies. We are talking about people who have managed to escape with their lives and barely little else, not knowing if family, friends or loved ones are safe. They have endured much in their travels to get to a safe haven and the last thing I believe we should be doing is confiscating what little they have left. Although the confiscation policies being imposed in other countries have stated that some items, such as wedding rings, would not be taken – what about other items which may have been passed down from generation to generation, or items which remind you of a lost loved one? Irrespective of their monetary value, these items would have more personal value to refugees struggling to find safety but still thinking about those who may still be in danger, or those who didn’t survive to seek refuge.

Instead of stripping refugees of personal belongings we should be looking at how to stop the refugee crises. We should be looking at ways to support the general population of countries such as Syria and helping them to rebuild their shattered cities and shattered lives. We need to move away from spending vast fortunes on destroying countries and then leaving it to international charities to clean up the mess left behind. Let’s not forget that some of the bombs these refugees are running from have been dropped on them by British forces, thanks to that shameful vote in Parliament a few weeks ago. How dare we bomb their cities and then complain that they come here looking for refuge from the terror we are imposing on them?

However, the YouGov poll doesn’t reflect what I am seeing locally in my constituency and in Scotland. Instead of wanting to punish refugees by taking away what little personal items they may have, I have seen local people open their arms and their hearts to the refugees. My office has been inundated with calls from constituents offering to help the refugees in any way they can, whether with donations of food, clothing or even presents for children at Christmas. They are wanting to help the refugee families settle and become part of our communities. As well as doing what we can to stop the killings in Syria, and elsewhere, we should recognise the vulnerability of the refugees and should be doing what we can to help support them.