Denmark passes special law for Ukrainian refugees

The Danish parliament has passed a special law giving Ukrainian refugees access to school, the labour market and social welfare in the Nordic country.

Danish ministers present the country's new special law for Ukrainian refugees
Danish ministers present the country's new special law for Ukrainian refugees on March 17th 2022. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

The new law was passed after the completion of an expedited process in parliament on Thursday evening, after some sticking points between parties over its financing.

The special “Ukrainian law” eases the process for Ukrainians compared to the normal asylum system, and is designed to enable them to start work and school as soon as possible after coming to Denmark.

It allows for a two-year residence permit with the option of a one-year extension.

One party – the Independent Greens – opposed the law, while three – the Alternative and far-right Nye Borgerlige and Danish People’s Party – abstained.

A number of amendments to the law were proposed during the expedited parliamentary procedure, but the bill was passed in its original form.

Left wing and centre-left parties, normally allied with the minority Social Democratic government, voted in favour of the law despite reservations about the foreign development aid budget being used to finance it.

The special law will cost 2.2 billion kroner in 2022 with over 2 billion of that taken from Denmark’s foreign development aid budget.

“We have had low asylum numbers for many years. That has meant that very little money from the Danish development framework has been spent on taking in refugees,” immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye said in parliament.

“We are now in a different situation,” he said.

The Conservative Party tabled an amendment that would have separated rules under the law, differentiating between Ukrainian nationals and refugees who have applied for asylum in Ukraine. The amendment was not adopted but the Conservatives voted for the bill anyway.

The law came into effect on Thursday, meaning Ukrainians can now apply for residence in Denmark under its terms.

The first residency permits under the law could be issued this weekend.

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UPDATED: Denmark’s government supports Ukraine EU candidacy 

Denmark’s government has said it will support Ukraine’s bid for EU membership after the European Commission deemed the country’s candidacy viable.

UPDATED: Denmark's government supports Ukraine EU candidacy 

Ukraine’s bid to be part of the EU got a majority backing in Danish Parliament on Friday after the European Commission backed the bid.

“It is really, really important that Europe opens the door for Ukraine, so that we can get started to ensure that Ukraine can be ready for EU membership,” foreign affairs spokesperson Michael Aastrup told newswire Ritzau.

Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said on Twitter that Denmark was looking forward to continuing cooperation with Ukraine on reforms.

The possibility for Ukraine to become part of the EU is conditional on Ukraine implementing reforms – on rule of law, oligarchs, human rights and tackling corruption – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday. She added that “good work has been done.”

Candidacy status is a significant step to joining the EU but the whole process can take years.

“When a candidate’s status is granted, it is not the same as Ukraine being ready to join the EU. There are a large number of criteria to be met and there are a large number of outstanding ones that Ukraine lacks. These are some of the things that are being addressed”, Michael Aastrup said.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen will attend a meeting in Brussels next week where the recommendation from the European Commission will be voted and signed off by the EU’s 27 member states. France, Germany and Italy have also already backed Ukraine’s bid but the decision has to be unanimous.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said that status as a candidate for EU membership is vital to his country, while the country’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has said the question could be decisive in the war to defend Ukraine from invasion by Russia.

READ MORE: Number of Ukrainian refugees working in Denmark triples in one month