Social rights for Irregular Immigrants in the Universal Welfare State - The case of irregular immigrants’ access to healthcare in Denmark

Cecilie Gunilla Prindahl, Thea Grønnegaard Larsen, Tobias Lund Sørensen, Ahmad Wesal Zaman & Henning Møller Christensen

Studenteropgave: Semesterprojekt


This project report investigates how the label ‘illegal’ affects undocumented immigrants’ access to social rights in a universal welfare state. This is undertaken by exploring the case of undocumented migrants’ access to the healthcare system in Denmark. According to the Danish Health Act (DHA), the aim of the Danish healthcare system is to promote the population’s health as well as prevent and treat sickness, suffering and functional limitation for the individual (Ministeriet for Sundhed og Forebyggelse 2014: §1). The DHA further establishes that treatment is free of charge for all with residence in Denmark and that people without residence only have access to emergency care (cf. Ministeriet for Sundhed og Forebyggelse 2014: §80; §81). According to Cuadra (2011) and based on the Council of Europe Resolution 1509, Denmark is placed in the group of European countries that grants minimum rights to access healthcare, as the country only grants emergency care to undocumented immigrants. However, based on the findings of a recent Swedish study by Wahlberg et al. (2014) it is argued that limited access to healthcare has negative consequences for undocumented migrants. The study inter alia found that the average age at death for undocumented immigrants in Sweden was 43.7 years, which is significantly below average life expectancy of Swedish residents, which in 2013 was 82.0 years (ibid.: 4; OECD 2015). This project report argues based on the interviews with three undocumented migrants residing in Denmark, that the undocumented immigrants, despite the legal right to emergency care, de facto do not have access to the emergency healthcare offered to them. As the study points out, this limitation of access is due to a number of informal and formal barriers, which are reinforced and enhanced by being labelled as ‘illegal’. The labelling of undocumented immigrants as ‘illegal’ consolidate the migrant in what here have been framed as a state and space of nonexistence.

UddannelserInternationale Studier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Bachelor el. kandidat
Udgivelsesdato25 jan. 2016


  • irregular immigrants
  • social rights
  • nonexistence
  • immigration
  • universal welfare state
  • Denmark
  • undocumented immigrant
  • vulnerability
  • healthcare
  • label-framing