Denmark is planning to open four advanced medical clinics which will focus solely on treating the growing number of Ukrainian refugees to ease pressure on the country's healthcare system. The plans present a stark contrast to the government's recent policies towards refugees from non-European states.
Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, nearly 5 million people have fled the country, mostly women and children, as men between 18 and 60 are required to stay and fight.
Some Ukrainian refugees have found refuge in Denmark, however the influx of new arrivals has put significant pressure on the Danish healthcare system, as municipalities struggle to provide everyone basic medical care.
In response, the Capital Region of Denmark, consisting of the capital Copenhagen and surrounding areas, has partnered up with the General Practitioners’ Organization (PLO) to establish four advanced medical clinics with a focus on treating Ukrainian refugees. Regional Council Chairperson Lars Gaardhøj explained in a statement:
"The pressure to offer treatment is increasing, and we want to help Ukrainians with less serious illnesses. The general practitioners have so far managed the task voluntarily, but with the expected thousands of refugees, we need to prepare with a more robust solution."
Until last week, Ukrainian refugees were only eligible to receive emergency medical care. On April 13, the Danish Ministry of Health implemented a change in policy allowing Ukrainian nationals to be treated by a general practitioner while their application is being processed.
Providing necessary treatment
The four clinics will be staffed with general practitioners, specialist doctors and nurses from the Capital Region of Denmark's vaccine organization. At the centers, refugees will be able to benefit from various healthcare services, such as the renewal of prescription drugs for chronic illnesses, prenatal care for pregnant women and the administration of vaccines e.g. for COVID-19.
The clinics will offer services in English with the assistance of interpreters whenever necessary to ensure that refugees can easily receive adequate treatment.
The pilot facility reportedly opened last week in Nørrebro, a district of Copenhagen - the Danish capital, the remaining three medical centers are due to open within the next few days.
Selective approach towards refugees?
On the surface, the treatment of Ukrainian refugees in Denmark might appear to be a u-turn in the country's prevailing attitudes on asylum and migration policy.
However, while Denmark seeks to suspend asylum rules for Ukrainians fleeing their country, making it easier for them to access education and employment in Denmark, previous attitudes towards refugees from non-European states seem to remain.
Last year the Danish government revoked the residency permits of 189 Syrian refugees before asking them to return to Damascus and its surrounding areas, which they declared safe despite the ongoing civil war in other parts of the country.
In addition, Denmark and Rwanda have been in talks about plans to outsource asylum procedures to the African state, and signed a memorandum on asylum and migration in 2021. Rwanda's autocratic government has long attempted to present itself as a hub for processing asylum claims, however it has faced criticism over its human rights record and treatment of refugees in its facilities.
Denmark is not the only country seeking to send its responsibilities offshore, the UK recently announced plans to export the processing of asylum claims to Rwanda, which have been questioned by lawyers and human rights activists who have raised questions over the legality of such processes. In 2017, Israel shelved similar plans to send asylum applicants to the East African state following a legal challenge, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that refugees who refused to leave Israel could not be imprisoned indefinitely, and that those who went to Rwanda had to go willingly.