This article provides an overview of measures by Denmark's government and civil society to welcome and facilitate the integration of those fleeing the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Special act passed by Danish Parliament
- As Denmark is not bound by the EU Temporary Protection Directive due to an opt-out on legal issues, a special act was passed with effect from 17 March, mirroring the directive except for a few differences: stateless persons from Ukraine are not included, and a permit will be given for two years at first, with the possibility of extension for a further year.
- The special act has been subject to much criticism and protest by human rights and refugee organisations, for favouring Ukrainians only. This is particularly problematic as Denmark is the only country to revoke Syrian refugees' permits, and only granted protection to 3% of all Afghan refugees that made applications in 2021. The goodwill and positive measures taken by both national and local administration is also in stark contrast to how other groups of refugees have been received in Denmark – the government had a goal of zero asylum seekers until Ukraine was invaded by Russia.
- An application for protection can be made by those fleeing Ukraine by filling out an online form and booking a time slot for registration at one of the Immigration Service's offices. Those not covered by the special act may lodge a request for asylum at any police station or reception centre Sandholm.
- A special information website has also been launched by the state to share details on Danish efforts to support new arrivals and political developments related to Ukraine and Russia. The site will be continuously updated with information in Danish, English and Ukrainian.
Arrival, accommodation and benefits
- According to the Danish Immigration Service, as of 25 March 28 000 people have arrived from Ukraine and registered in Denmark. 2 000 of these have applied for asylum and are now accommodated in asylum centres. As of 28 March, 750 have been granted protection under the special act.
- New processing centres are being established to handle the high numbers of applications being made, and a number of new asylum centres have also been opened. The Danish government estimates that up to 100 000 may arrive from Ukraine.
- Most Ukrainian refugees are staying in private homes temporarily, with family or Danes. Some are accommodated by municipalities in empty buildings such as closed schools, sports facilities and military barracks.
- A huge number of Facebook groups have been established, via which civilians and private companies are collecting aid, coordinating transport from Ukraine and offering private accommodation in Denmark. Unfortunately, there is growing concern that Ukrainian women and children are being exploited and abused, either sexually or as free labour. The Danish Red Cross, the Danish Centre against Human Trafficking and the minister for immigration and integration have made public statements warning people to only make arrangements with people they already know or via official channels only, and to report any suspicious behaviour.
- Civil society actors are organising special bus transportation from Poland to Denmark, paid for by private sponsors and coordinated in conjunction with local authorities. Empty buses are filled with food and other necessities and driven to Poland, and then used for the return journey to drive displaced people to Denmark to register for protection.
- Danish municipalities are being granted 200 million DKK to reimburse private individuals accommodating those fleeing Ukraine. Hosts can apply at their local council to host a displaced person, and will receive up to 500 DKK per day to cover food and rent. Payments vary between municipalities, with some paying none and others paying up to 250 DKK per day.
- Politicians are pushing to ensure that those arriving from Ukraine are exempt from the harsh restrictions faced by other foreigners and refugees are met with. When it comes to finding more permanent housing, for example, Ukrainians are categorised as 'non-Western' and therefore not allowed to move into 'vulnerable' housing estates (previously labelled 'ghettos' by the government).
Work and education
- A new partnership has been established between the government, local municipalities, regional administrations, the unions and the Confederation of Danish Employers, to coordinate and facilitate the reception and integration of Ukrainians. This includes focus on access to the labour market, provision of Danish language and employment skills courses, and evaluation of individual competencies.
- The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) is running 3 free webinars in March and April to prepare professionals such as teachers, nurses, social workers and job centre employees for welcoming new arrivals from Ukraine.
- Refugees have full access to all education in Denmark on the same terms as Danes, but the permits issued under the new special act only give access to vocational rather than higher education. However, Danish language training is freely accessible, and all children including new arrivals have full access to school.
A future in Denmark?
Denmark is seeking to increase its labour force, and 16 000 Ukrainians were already living in the country - mostly due to work - before the Russian invasion. For this reason, those coming from Ukraine now are being welcomed on the assumption that they will be far more self-sufficient and contribute more to the labour market than, for example, Syrian refugees (who did not have an already established reputation in the Danish labour force). However, Denmark is not an easy country to settle in, and therefore those arriving from Ukraine may still face a few obstacles.
A key obstacle is the existence of strict requirements for accessing the labour market. Denmark is mainly in need of skilled labour, especially in the health and care sectors and in vocational positions. Ukrainians in Denmark, though, typically work in unskilled and low-paid jobs, such as agriculture, as most jobs that provide good conditions and good salaries require extensive Danish language skills and education. Further, degrees from abroad are rarely recognised in practice. Of foreigners living in Denmark with a higher education from their home country, half are working in unskilled jobs.
Additionally, those arriving from Ukraine today are for the most part women and children, while their husbands and partners are left behind in Ukraine. Generally, across Europe and for a variety of reasons, women tend to be less integrated in labour markets than men, and this is especially true of women with an ethnic minority background.
If those fleeing Ukraine should end up staying more than a few years in Denmark, they will face very strict requirements for securing permanent residency and family reunification.
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- Michala Clante BendixenCountry Coordinator