(CNN)When Denmark became the first liberal democracy to tell Syrian refugees to return to their war-torn home in 2019, Russian jets were still dropping missiles in Syria, in an effort to help President Bashar al-Assad's regime regain control of the country.
Denmark opens its arms to Ukrainians, while trying to send Syrian refugees home
Ukraine is now being pummelled by the same Russian military, forcing more than 2.2 million people to flee to neighboring countries, according to the United Nations.
But instead of being met by xenophobia, detention centers and threats of repatriation in the European Union, Ukrainian refugees are being welcomed by European nations like Denmark with open arms.
"When there is war in Europe and a European neighbor is exposed to what we see in Ukraine, there is not the slightest doubt in my mind: We must help as best we can ... by welcoming Ukrainians on Danish soil," said Mattias Tesfaye, the Danish minister for foreign affairs and integration, soon after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.
The Danish government is drafting legislation that will suspend asylum rules for Ukrainians, Rasmus Stoklund, the foreign affairs spokesperson for Denmark's ruling Social Democratic Party, told CNN.
"They won't be part of the asylum system," Stocklund told CNN. Instead the proposed law will make it easier for Ukrainians to receive residency permits "so they can quickly start in school, on an education or in a job," according to a statement by the Danish immigration and integration ministry.
This would be in line with the European Union granting temporary protection for Ukrainians, allowing them to enter the bloc without a visa and to choose which country to go to.
Those eligible would be given protected status -- similar to that of a refugee -- in any EU country for a one-year period, which may be reviewed in future. This is a stark contrast with the EU's asylum rules where refugees must ask for asylum in the first member state they entered. Efforts by the EU to reform this system and help to equitably resettle asylum-seekers around the bloc have been unsuccessful.
But critics are accusing the Danish government of hypocrisy, since it is currently urging Syrian refugees originating from Damascus and its surrounding countryside to return there, despite the ongoing civil war and the regime's brutal reputation.
While fighting has subsided considerably in the region around Damascus, activists say the Danish government is actively putting Syrians in harm's way.
In a statement to CNN, the Danish Ministry of Immigration and Integration Affairs said all refugees were treated the same. "Regardless of the law on temporary residence permits for persons expelled from Ukraine, all persons applying for asylum in Denmark have the same rights in the Danish asylum system."
It added that about 30,000 Syrians who have been granted a residence permit in Denmark since 2014 still live in the country.