War displaced persons: Protection extended for Ukrainians in the EU

War displaced persons: Protection extended for Ukrainians in the EU


DThe EU Commission has extended the special protection for Ukrainian war refugees by one year until March 2024. As Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson announced on Monday, 4.2 million Ukrainians are currently recognized as temporarily in need of protection in the EU. This status, which the member states activated for the first time shortly after the Russian attack, can be granted for a maximum of three years. It replaces a complex asylum procedure and grants access to education, health care, social benefits and the labor market.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

According to the UN refugee agency, almost four million Ukrainians were registered as temporarily in need of protection in the European Union at the end of September, most of them in Poland (1.4 million), Germany (700,000) and the Czech Republic (440,000). In contrast, the Federal Statistical Office announced on Monday that 952,000 Ukrainians had come to Germany since the end of February. Of these, 78,000 people had withdrawn by the end of August. The discrepancy with the UNHCR figures could be due to the fact that not all people have applied for temporary protection.

Many do not register with the authorities

A total of 3 to 3.5 million Ukrainians are said to have returned to their homeland so far. It cannot be said more precisely because many did not register with the authorities. Johansson explained on Monday that people were afraid that they would have to flee the war again and therefore wanted to keep their protection status. This raises two serious problems for the EU countries. On the one hand, they never know exactly how many displaced persons are with them, which would be important for planning school lessons. On the other hand, returnees who do not register continue to receive social benefits – to which they are no longer entitled.

The authorities are trying to counteract this with controls. In the Czech Republic, for example, checks are being carried out to see whether Ukrainians can use their phones to log into the national network. Johansson now wants to get a better picture with an exception. In the future, returnees will have to deregister. However, if they flee again, their protected status – and all associated benefits – will automatically be reactivated.

Of the Ukrainians who remain in the EU, only a small proportion have found new jobs so far. There is no exact information here either. According to a survey, it was 370,000 people in 15 member states. Another 250,000 people are registered as unemployed in 18 states. Nevertheless, there is an increased need for workers in many countries, the European Labor Market Authority spoke on Monday of three million vacancies. However, Ukrainians often have to learn the local language and have their qualifications recognized before they can apply.

The EU Commission wants to make the application itself easier with a new online platform that Ukrainians can use to upload their CVs and other information in Ukrainian, Russian and English. You can contact 4,000 companies in five countries. The Ukrainian Ambassador to the European Union welcomed the initiative and hinted at a further influx. “There could be a new wave after today’s attacks,” said Chentsov Vsevolod.

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