Press briefing 1 April 2022

The influx of displaced Ukrainians is now beginning to be felt in earnest

Published 01-04-2022

It is now five weeks ago Putin invaded Ukraine - a peaceful, democratic country. Here in Europe - on Denmark's doorstep. Of course it can already be felt in Denmark.

Hosts: Minister of Interior and Housing Kaare Dybvad Bek, Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye and director of Danish Immigration Service Niels Henrik Larsen.

Over 20,000 Ukrainians have already arrived

The authorities are preparing for a scenario where more than 100,000 Ukrainians can come to Denmark. At present, the Ministry of Immigration and Integration Affairs estimates that around 25,000-30,000 Ukrainians has arrived to Denmark. And although the situation in Ukraine remains very unpredictable, more Ukrainians are undoubtedly heading in this direction.

Need more speed on the process of residence permits

Today is two weeks ago since the first Ukrainian was granted a residence permit under the Ukrainian Law. A little more than 1,000 residence permits have been granted. But there has to be more speed on the process. We must offer more times to have fingerprints and photos taken, and it must be easier for the Ukrainians to show up. Among other things, 15 mobile biometrics stations have been purchased, which means that the immigration authorities will soon be able to offer services in several places in the country.

Based on the number of Ukrainians who have booked time to submit an application, the Ministry estimates that on the other side of Easter 35-40,000 Ukrainians will have arrived to Denmark. There is of course considerable uncertainty about the development.

Challenge to receive thousands of people

Our society can receive 20,000 people in a short time, without significant consequences for the public service. But the raising number of people thereafter will be difficult in some areas. And we must face that receiving such a big amount of people in such a short time will be challenging. And those challenges start long before we hit 100,000 displaced Ukrainians.

Several municipalities are already reporting that it is difficult to find places for the Ukrainians to live. It is difficult to find space at institutions and so on.

The Minister of Children and Education has initiated discussions with the national association of municipalities on setting up special institutions for the reception of Ukrainian refugee children. The Minister of Interior and Housing has given the municipalities more flexibility for the accommodation of Ukrainians. And in the same way, we have to make a lot more of those tough decisions to make ends meet. Also in a number of other welfare areas.

We already have an assessment that we most likely will have to accommodate people in alternative ways. Although it is certainly not our first priority, it can be necessary that the Ukrainians stay more than just briefly in e.g. disused nursing homes, schools and hospitals.

Of course, the government maintains in close contact with the municipalities to ensure that they have the right tools to solve the task. This afternoon, a broad majority of the parliamentary parties have agreed to extend the temporary scheme for the municipalities' accommodation and catering of the Ukrainians, which ensures that everyone gets a roof over their heads and that the municipalities are compensated. The Folketing must as soon as possible formalize the agreement in concrete legislation that secures the scheme in the future.

As said, several municipalities are already experiencing that accepting many more Ukrainians will be difficult and that’s why there is discussions about how the Ukrainians shall be distributed in Denmark. This is therefore something that the government will take a closer look at.

No matter how we do it, the task will not be easy for anyone. And that is why we at Christiansborg soon will be discussing whether there will be a point where the municipalities must have opportunities that ensure that we avoid too much strain on the local welfare society.

We need everyone to take on the task. We need the Ukrainians who already live in Denmark to help with interpretation and help in everyday life. We are in a refugee influx that far exceeds anything else in Europe's history since World War II. We must make sure that the Danish welfare society gets through safely. We can do that. But we have to face that it will not be easy and be free of cost. Everyone will feel the consequences at some point.

Extraordinarily great need for accommodation

We are in a completely extraordinary situation. Many displaced persons from Ukraine have sought refuge in Denmark. Therefore, there is a need for accommodation. And that to an extraordinarily large extent. Big and difficult decisions must be made. And there is also a need for us all to think in alternative solutions. Fortunately, we are experiencing a very large effort from the municipalities, and also from private individuals and civil society. We recognize and appreciate the great work and commitment of ordinary people in all parts of the country.

Public housing in vulnerable housing areas in use

We can already see that we need all possibilities to come into play when we have to solve the enormous challenges. As the legislation is now, there are almost 700 vacant public housing units that cannot be used because they are located in the vulnerable housing areas. Displaced persons from Ukraine may not be assigned a temporary residence or a dwelling located in an exposed residential area. The government wants to change that.

Specifically, we propose that it will be possible to assign displaced persons from Ukraine to a dwelling in an exposed residential area, to the extent that a municipality assesses that there is no suitable accommodation outside the exposed residential areas.

Support from the parties behind the parallel society efforts

General support from the parties behind the parallel society efforts and the special law for the change that the government is proposing here. The parties are naturally concerned that the efforts against parallel societies can continue, so that the positive development that is underway in the vulnerable housing areas can continue.

Vacant housing in the public sector

It is important to have the proportions when we talk about solving the challenge with the many displaced Ukrainians. Because even though we have a large public sector, with more than 500,000 homes, it is not the case that there is a large number of vacant public housing. At the moment there are only approx. 3,300 vacant public housing - of which a small 700 in the vulnerable housing areas. The municipalities are entitled to be able to assign to every fourth public housing. However, it is possible to enter into agreements with the housing organizations on instructions for up to 100 per cent.

I would like to encourage the municipalities to enter into a dialogue with the housing organizations about this. With the absolutely extraordinary situation we are in, it is important that in the coming time we bring all possibilities into play.

The special law allows for temporary accommodation

We are already in the process. With the special law, we have already taken into account the need to provide more accommodation options. The special law gives municipalities, immigration authorities and other actors the opportunity to establish temporary accommodation facilities at short notice and without an application for a building permit. This can for example be in commercial properties, sport arenas, closed schools and private housing.

But even though the government are in the middle of the process of creating new opportunities, we are far from the finish line with the initiatives we are presenting here today. We must therefore be prepared to look at opportunities tomorrow that we may not have thought of yesterday when it comes to providing shelter and security for the displaced people from Ukraine.

Given up to 1200 residence permits

For the Danish Immigration Service, the influx of displaced Ukrainians is the biggest task in recent times. We are in the process of expanding capacity on all fronts. We are increasing accommodation with more buildings and more places, more citizen appointments for biometrics and submission of identity papers, and of course more staff into the agency, so we can make decisions and issue residence permits for the many who are waiting for it.

We have more than doubled the accommodation capacity. We have created room for approx. 3,500 extra, so we now have room for approx. 6,000. Soon we will have room for up to 8000. This has been possible through volunteering and in great dialogue with many municipalities and actors. We thank you for the efforts that have been made so that we still have spare capacity in our part of the accommodation task. It would not have been enough without the great help we have received from municipalities and private individuals. We have capacity, and we have places for those who may need accommodation if they do not have an opportunity to stay with friends and acquaintances or in the municipality where they are.

We have currently offered almost 18,000 appointments for recording biometrics. There are now still approx. 2000 vacancies, and 7000 have already been through. We have maintained the current opening hours for all other applicants, so these are extra appointments. We have received 15 more biometric stations, and we can therefore increase the capacity.

The Danish Immigration Service encourage people to be there in time and to remember to cancel if you have overbooked an appointment, as there are others who are waiting for an appointment.

We have registered 14,200 applications and we are converting the 2,000 asylum applications into special law cases. We have already given over 1,200 residence permits and with the rate that we are looking into right now, we expect about 5,000 residence permits by Easter.

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