Geneva - New medical clinics to cure Ukrainian migrants better and faster are opening in Denmark in stark contrast to the government’s recent discriminatory and unparalleled policies against other non-white refugees, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor warned in a statement today. From its decision to forcibly send Syrian refugees back to Syria to the 3% acceptance rate of Afghans’ asylum claims, the Danish government’s double standards are too flagrant to hide.
The Capital Region of Denmark, Copenhagen, and surrounding areas have partnered up with the General Practitioners’ Organization to establish four medical clinics that will focus solely on treating the growing number of Ukrainian refugees in the country. The first facility opened last week in Nørrebro, a district of Copenhagen, and the remaining three medical centers will start to operate in the next few days, offering services in English with the assistance of interpreters whenever necessary.
As Denmark is not bound by the EU Temporary Protection Directive, last month, it passed a special law for citizens fleeing Ukraine to streamline their application process for temporary residence and employment.
Normally, non-EU nationals awaiting decisions on their residence applications in Denmark do not have automatic access to the public health system, and some are forced to use private health insurance to cover the waiting period. However, the Regional Council Chairperson, Lars Gaardhøj, explained that this time they want “to help Ukrainians with less serious illnesses,” and they “need to prepare with a more robust solution” in view of the expected thousands of refugees from Ukraine.
Until last week, Ukrainian refugees were only eligible to receive emergency medical care, but on 13 April, the Danish Ministry of Health implemented a policy change allowing Ukrainian nationals to be treated by a general practitioner while their application is being processed.
At first glance, this act seems contradictory to the goal of having “zero asylum seekers,” repeatedly stated by Danish PM Frederiksen. Instead, favoring Ukrainian citizens only clearly shows that the problem is not the influx of new arrivals but rather their nationality, ethnicity, and race.
Denmark is the first and only EU country to revoke Syrian refugees’ permits and send them back, alleging their area is no longer dangerous. It is the country that only granted protection to 3% of all Afghan refugees who claimed asylum there in 2021 and the country that adopted a law to deport asylum seekers to unknown third countries in Africa to process their asylum requests and host them there. It is clear that in Denmark, where asylum seekers and refugees are sent to live and how they will live depends on their country of origin.
Since 2010, the Danish Ministry of Transport, Building and Housing has kept a list of “ghettoes” - meaning public housing areas that, according to authorities, have social problems and contain a majority population of “non-Western ethnicities”- that triggers a “ghetto package” of discriminatory policies.
Similarly, from the very beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, Denmark has exempted Ukrainian refugees from the controversial “jewelry law,” which gives authorities the power to confiscate valuables from arriving migrants allegedly to pay for their reception and stay, while it still applies it to asylum seekers from the Middle East and North Africa.
“This is not an unusual situation, as Danish authorities have called it. What is unusual is the hospitable treatment reserved to Ukrainian refugees, while discriminatory policies towards non-White refugees like Syrians and Afghans starkly remain,” said Michela Pugliese, Euro-Med Monitor’s Migration and Asylum Researcher. “Denmark’s efforts to take care of Ukrainian refugees would be noble if, in the meanwhile, the same government didn’t strip all other refugees of their basic rights.”
Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor calls on Denmark to ensure equal access to health care to all refugees and asylum seekers regardless of race, religion, socio-economic condition and immigration status, taking into consideration the link of health status to issues of dignity, non-discrimination, justice and participation; fulfil the prohibition of discrimination as a constitutive element of all rights and guarantee that immigration policies do not have the effect of discriminating against persons on the basis of race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin; sign and ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families of 1990; respect European Law, in particular Council Directive 2000/43/EC implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin and Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the prohibition of discrimination; and comply with International Human Rights Law, especially the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in its General Recommendation N° 30 on non-citizens and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its General Comment N° 14 on the right to the highest attainable standard of health.