Danish government and industry agree on deal for Ukrainian work permits

The Danish government has agreed with representatives from the country’s employer organisations and trade unions to make special work permit arrangements for Ukrainian refugees.

Immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye and the heads of umbrella organisations for employer and trade union groups speak to press
Immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye and the heads of umbrella organisations for employer and trade union groups speak to press after agreeing to push for a special work permit law for Ukrainians. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The special law will give Ukrainians access to the Danish labour market, immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye said on Friday.

“We envisage a special law which will very quickly give Ukrainians legal residence so children can go to school and parents can go to work,” the minister said at a press briefing.

Parliamentary parties are scheduled to thrash out the specifics of the deal later on Friday.

Tesfaye said that he did not expect all Ukrainian refugees to be able to enter the labour market in Denmark from the first day of their arrival in the country.

The number of Ukrainians expected to come to Denmark as a result of the Russian invasion of their country eight days ago remains unclear.

“We estimate being able to accommodate 20,000 in the Danish asylum system. We can see that most will be accommodated privately,” he said.

Current rules allow Ukrainian nationals to spend 90 days in Denmark without a visa.

The new law will be given expedited process through parliament, allowing it to take effect as soon as possible.

READ ALSO: Danish government likely to exempt Ukrainians from controversial refugee ‘jewellery law’

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Danish police use controversial ‘jewellery law’ 17 times in last six years

More than six years after the controversial 'jewellery law' was passed, enabling Danish authorities to confiscate valuable items from refugees, the law has been used 17 times, according to figures from the National Police.

Danish police use controversial 'jewellery law' 17 times in last six years

The figures were shown by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Integration, Kaare Dybvad Bek to Danish parliament.

The legislation, which came into effect in February 2016, allows police to confiscate cash and valuables with a value above 10,000 kroner from arriving migrants and asylum seekers.

Under Ministry of Immigration guidelines, police are told not to take wedding rings or engagement rings and individual officers are left to determine the sentimental value of other items.

According to the police figures, there have been between 0 to 5 jewellery law cases a year, from 5th February 2016 to 30th May 2022. For example the law hasn’t been used this year or in 2019 but in 2021, the law was used five times, involving nationals of Iran, Eritrea, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

However it is not clear what has been taken in each case; whether the item was jewellery or what the value was.


At the time of its introduction, the law, which was passed by a large parliamentary majority, received criticism from international human rights groups including US-based rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Does a rich country like Denmark really need to strip the very assets of these desperate asylum seekers before providing them basic services?” HRW’s executive director Kenneth Roth said in January 2016.

Disapproval could also be found in international media, including in a New York Times editorial and a cartoon published by British paper The Independent, which depicted the Little Mermaid flush with cash and jewellery confiscated from refugees.

Technically the law could have applied to Ukrainians who have come to Denmark as refugees, to escape Russian invasion of their country but Danish parliament decided the law should not apply to Ukrainians.