Denmark, a country known for its pursuit of a zero-asylum policy, is cutting foreign aid to Mali, Syria and Bangladesh in order to free up funds for Ukrainian refugees.
The government is facing criticism for backtracking on its policy of no asylum seekers, but the country’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, said that Denmark would welcome the Ukrainians with open arms. To journalists who reminded her of her statements in January 2021, when she aimed for “zero asylum seekers,” the leader of the left-wing Social Democrats replied that her policy had always been to support refugees “in their neighborhood.”
“We see Ukraine as part of our neighborhood,” she said.
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However, the issue of funding is already being raised. The government is setting aside 2 billion krona (€268.6 million) in order to handle the crisis, with 20,000 refugees expected in the coming months in a country of 5.8 million. In order to offset these budget expenses, the money needed for Ukrainians is expected to be gathered with cuts in foreign aid spending to countries located outside Europe.
Some critics are complaining that this is unfair. Concretely, this means that Denmark “will let the populations of Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Yemen pay so that we receive refugees” from Ukraine, said Anders Ladekarl, secretary general of the Danish Red Cross.
“There is also fire in the Middle East and huge challenges in Africa because of the climate crisis,” said Birgitte Qvist-Sorensen, who heads the charitable activities of the Danish Lutheran Church.
A Danish Foreign Ministry list of projects that will lose financial backing also shows that Burkina Faso will also receive cuts to previously pledged Danish development aid.
Minister for Foreign Development Flemming Møller Mortensen told newspaper Berlingske that the diversion of aid spending was appropriate.
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“The primary aim of the government’s foreign development strategy is that refugees must be helped in near areas [in conflict zones]. Denmark has now actually become a near area, and a special responsibility follows that,” Mortensen said.
The government has signalled that is believes “significantly more” Ukrainians will come, according to Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye.
Should that happen, further funds could be taken from the foreign development budget.
War-torn Syria and neighbouring regions are to lose 50 million kroner due to the decision. Mali, which is plagued by terror groups, loses 70 million kroner, and Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries, will lose 100 million kroner in Danish aid spending.
Refugees must go home at end of conflict
The government has made it clear that all Ukrainians entering the country must go home after the conflict to help rebuild their country. Most nations are not expected to follow such a program. Refugees from the Balkan wars from the 1990s, for example, still remain in many of the countries they fled to even decades later.
In preparation for the arrival of the refugees, the Danish parliament proposed a special law designed to grant Ukrainians a temporary residence permit for two years, outside the traditional system, according to the Courrier International news outlet.
First presented on March 14, the bill had to be reviewed in an accelerated procedure to be adopted on Wednesday, wrote the Jyllands-Posten conservative daily.