The Cancer Information Service at the German Cancer Research Center answers enquiries from refugees from Ukraine with cancer as well as their relatives. Here you will find necessary basic information and contact points.
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If Ukrainian refugees are ill upon entry or become ill during their stay in Germany, they will receive medical care in Germany.
For cancer patients, this usually means that the necessary oncological treatment will be continued or even started. For this, they have to go through a multi-step procedure in Germany
Procedure when Ukrainian cancer patients enter the country
Currently, Ukrainian refugees do not need a visa or a biometric (travel) passport. The Ukrainian ID card (model 2015) is recognised in Germany as a substitute for a passport until 23 February 2024. Entry is therefore possible without further documents. Lost documents must be re-applied for at the Ukrainian Embassy in Berlin.
For medical treatment, it is important (but not a requirement) that all medical documents are available. This way, treatment can be continued quickly.
Ukrainian refugees newly arriving in Germany must register after their arrival in Germany.
- You can find the nearest foreigners authority for registration via a search function of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
- Registration does not yet constitute a residence permit.
- Refugees initially receive a "proof of arrival".
- During registration, it is clarified where refugees are accommodated.
- As soon as it is clear where the refugee will live, he or she can apply for a residence permit, more on this in the next section).
- Until a decision is made on the application for a residence permit, refugees receive a so-called "fiction certificate": this means that their stay in Germany is legal and they can receive medical care.
- The application for a residence permit must be submitted within 90 days of entering Germany. This regulation initially applies to first-time entries until 4 March 2024.
During the first period of their stay, refugees receive basic medical care in accordance with the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act. As a rule, cancer patients receive the necessary treatment or treatment that has already begun. Which treatment is covered by the basic care depends on the individual situation, for example, the stage of the disease or treatments that have already taken place.
The procedure for covering the costs of basic medical care can vary from region to region.
- In some cases, the responsible municipality or city issues "treatment vouchers" with which the persons concerned can go to the doctor or to a hospital.
- In some cases, refugees receive an insurance card from a statutory health insurance company after a short period of time, which they have to show in the doctors' practice or in the hospital.
This is how medical care with a residence permit continues
After the residence permit has been granted, refugees from Ukraine can work and apply for social benefits. To do so, they must register independently at the relevant JobCentre or social welfare office.
If people from Ukraine have a residence permit and are fit for work but unemployed, they receive money from the Job Centre ("Bürgergeld") and are supported in their job search. They become compulsory members of the statutory health insurance, receive an insurance card and are thus entitled to all benefits of the statutory health insurance.
If people from Ukraine have a residence permit and cannot work, for example because of their age or because they are incapacitated due to illness: Then they receive basic security ("social assistance"). Although they are then not compulsorily insured in the statutory health insurance scheme, they also receive a health insurance card from a statutory health insurance fund. If necessary, they can use this card to obtain health services that correspond to the scope of services provided by the statutory health insurance. To do so, they must present the insurance card at clinics and surgeries. In this way, the costs can be settled directly with the social welfare office.
Refugees who have not yet applied for basic benefits will initially continue to receive benefits under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act and only basic health insurance cover.
Refugees who accept a job in Germany usually become members of a statutory health insurance fund and receive the full benefits of the statutory health insurance. Spouses and children are then usually also insured (family insurance).
Refugees who have assets or a high income from self-employment cannot usually receive benefits under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act, from the JobCenter or from the Social Welfare Office. They must also pay the costs of their medical treatment themselves. The Cancer Information Service cannot provide information on when this is the case and what costs are incurred. In principle, private health insurance may also be an option for these people.
Further important information for cancer patients who have fled
Contact the clinic or doctor's office at an early stage: In this way, those affected can quickly discuss with doctors how cancer treatment can be continued or started. This is especially true in cases where the report to the authorities cannot be made immediately after arrival or cannot be finalised right away.
Clarify costs: Refugees should discuss with the doctors treating them whether and what costs will be incurred – especially if they are still receiving basic care under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act. Doctors must inform refugees whether they have to bear the costs of treatment themselves and how much.
- The Cancer Information Service cannot provide an assessment of which treatments are covered by basic care in individual cases.
There are also support services in many places in Germany that initially give refugees unbureaucratic access to medical care.
Medical emergency: If there is a medical emergency, the affected person can go directly to a hospital or a doctor's office or call the emergency number. The assumption of costs will then be clarified on site.
- Important: It cannot be completely ruled out that the refugees themselves will have to bear the costs.
- Cancer as such is not an emergency. As a rule, an emergency only exists if there is an acute danger to life (for example, acute respiratory distress, stroke, heart attack or accident).
Corona: War refugees from Ukraine can get tested for the corona virus and vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 in Germany. These health benefits are also paid for.
- Experts recommend cancer patients and their relatives to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Depending on their personal disease situation, cancer patients belong to the risk group for a severe course of COVID-19. Since many refugees from Ukraine are currently living in very confined spaces with many people, vaccination is particularly important for Ukrainian cancer patients.
The German Robert Koch Institute (RKI) offers an educational leaflet on COVID-19 vaccination also in Ukrainian.
Psychological and psycho-oncological support: The events related to the war in Ukraine can have a negative impact on the psyche of any cancer patient at any stage of the cancer disease. Although people react differently to war and trauma, it can be assumed that during or shortly after the flight, the psychological strain on those affected is very high. This can intensify cancer- or treatment-related complaints such as pain or severe exhaustion (fatigue). Some people therefore need additional psychological support.
- Those affected can get help from the Ukrainian Psycho-oncology Association (UPOA). Their psychologists are still available virtually for psychological support via Facebook.
- There are also other international psycho-oncology societies or associations that offer their help, such as in Poland.
- The information sheet Coping with Cancer in an Emergency or Catastrophic Situation (PDF) of the American Cancer Society offers initial orientation for those affected.
What happens when cancer patients want to return to Ukraine? What Ukrainians have to consider in such a situation and how a return to Ukraine affects their residence permit and protection status can be read on the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
Further assistance for Ukrainian cancer patients
3 large nationwide cancer self-help groups support Ukrainian cancer patients and their relatives: They offer contact to other cancer patients and to oncology specialists, doctors and nurses who come from Ukraine. You can find out more in an information flyer (PDF) in German, Ukrainian and Russian.
The German Cancer Aid (DKH) has set up an aid fund for relatives of Ukrainian cancer patients who accompany the patients (children or adults) during treatment in cancer centres in Germany. From this assistance fund, travel, accommodation and other costs already incurred or to be incurred by family members of the patients will be covered by German Cancer Aid up to an amount of 5,000 euros/patient.
- The aid fund is available to Ukrainian cancer patients who are treated in Comprehensive Cancer Centres, in cancer centres certified by the German Cancer Society and in children's cancer centres.
- The application must be submitted by these clinics.
- Further information is available on the DKH website and from INFONETZ KREBS on 0800 80708877 or by e-mail to email@example.com.
The German Cancer Society (DKG) maintains a list of certified Oncological Centres and Comprehensive Cancer Centres (CCCs/Spitzenzentren) on its website to which refugee Ukrainian patients in need of cancer therapy can turn. The centres listed there provide support in the regional patient-centered care.
- The website is in German, English, Ukrainian and Russian.
- The listed facilities all offer a telephone hotline and e-mail address with contact persons who can help cancer patients.
- The list is updated continuously.
The University Hospital Düsseldorf accepts Ukrainian patients who suffer from leukaemia or lymphoma and come from the vicinity of Düsseldorf or are planning a stay in this region.
- The address is:
Düsseldorf University Hospital
Tel: +49 (0)211-81 19 530
- The costs of treatment are covered by the AOK health insurance fund.
- Affected persons should register at the entrance gate of the university hospital. If possible, an identity document and the contact details of the current accommodation should be brought along.
- Questions about the stay at the University Hospital can be answered – also in Russian – at the office of the Leukaemia Lymphoma League e.V. under the telephone number +49 (0)211-81 19 530.
Various state cancer societies support Ukrainian cancer patients: The Krebsgesellschaft Rheinland-Pfalz e.V., the Thüringische Krebsgesellschaft e.V. and the Saarländische Krebsgesellschaft e.V. work within the initiative "Cancer Sufferers and Refugees - We Help", where
- they support affected refugees by providing timely and needs-based referrals to specialists and helping them to make contact.
- they offer free counselling in various foreign languages.
In addition, the counsellors try to provide further practical help such as arranging accommodation or interpreting and transport services.
The Berliner Krebsgesellschaft e.V. offers unbureaucratic financial support from its hardship fund to Ukrainian refugees with cancer. Affected persons can apply for the money through the district cancer societies, social services of the treating hospitals or directly on the Berliner Krebsgesellschaft e.V.. Requirements are:
- a medical certificate stating the cancer disease,
- a copy of the identity card and
- that the person is residing in Berlin.
Transport of cancer patients from Ukraine: Policy actions
Regardless of this, German politics is working on uncomplicated solutions to ensure that the medical care of refugees is unbureaucratic and comprehensive. It is possible that the current procedure will change again because of this.
- We inform here promptly about any changes.
Are politicians organising ways to bring Ukrainian cancer patients to Germany? According to the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG), the federal and state governments have agreed to accept sick and injured people from Ukraine for treatment in Germany.
The Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK), the Joint Reporting and Situation Centre (GMLZ) of the Federation and the federal states and the Federal Foreign Office are working together to coordinate the transport of patients to Germany.
After arrival in Germany, the patients are distributed to hospitals in Germany according to a cloverleaf mechanism. The cloverleaf mechanism was developed during the Corona pandemic and organises the transfer of patients between federal states and individual regions in Germany.
How can cancer patients from Ukraine or their relatives organise patient transport? People who need help can try to contact the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior or the government via their hospital. There, all cases are registered centrally and assistance is organised. If necessary, aid organisations that provide assistance in Ukraine can also organise transport to neighbouring countries. Examples are the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB), the German Red Cross (DRK), the Johanniter or the Malteser. The Federal Foreign Office offers a list of aid organisations in the Humanitarian Aid Coordination Committee.