Papers in 24 hours, subsidies and work permits: this is how Europe responds to the Ukrainian exodus | International

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused the largest flow of refugees into Europe since World War II. More than 3 million people have fled the country since February 24, but the European Union estimates that the number could exceed 6.5 million. These are the plans of the European countries to manage the arrival of refugees from the approval of a community directive of unlimited reception of those fleeing from the bombs.

Poland, an 18-month permit

Poland, the country that has received the most Ukrainian refugees since the beginning of the war (two million out of a total of 3.3 million), has approved a law by which they can stay legally for 18 months, extendable to three years. The Senate, with an opposition majority, proposed to grant them the right indefinitely, but the other Chamber, the Sejm, dominated by the ruling ultra-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, rejected it.

Ukrainian refugees are getting a national identification number known as Pesel and will be able to work and access health and education services. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian children are already enrolled in the country’s schools. Each one will also receive 300 zlotys (about 64 euros), and the people and institutions that host them, 40 zlotys (eight euros) a day retroactively.

Poland – whose population, NGOs and local administrations have devoted themselves to helping refugees – is in many cases a transit country to other richer EU countries, such as Germany or Italy, but it is estimated that half of the refugees, in around a million, still in the country, mainly in the big cities. The population of Warsaw has increased by 17% due to the presence of 300,000 refugees, its City Council reported last week. It has to do in part with the dense host network made up of the pre-war presence of another million Ukrainians, mainly economic migrants attracted in recent years by higher wages, easier visas and a similar language. Their visas and residence permits will be extended until the end of the year if they expired during the war. Poland needs labor in those jobs that its emigrants cover, for example, in France or Spain.

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Sports hall in Hrubieszow (Poland), converted into a refugee reception center. Massimiliano Minocri

Italy: a budget of 400 million

Italy is home to the largest expatriate Ukrainian community in the European Union, with some 236,000 immigrants. Since the beginning of the Russian offensive and until this Saturday, almost 56,000 people from Ukraine have arrived in Italy, of which about 29,000 are women, 22,000 minors and about 5,000 men, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

The Executive, which is preparing to receive some 83,000 Ukrainian refugees, declared a state of humanitarian emergency at the beginning of the month until December 31, a formula that allows it to mobilize resources more quickly and easily.

The plan to receive the refugees that the Government of Mario Draghi has prepared foresees allocating a total of 400 million euros to their reception. Last week it approved a decree to create 75,000 new places in the national network of shelters, in addition to the 8,000 already available. Associations, NGO host communities and other voluntary organizations, as well as families hosting refugees, will receive a daily contribution of around 35 euros for each refugee until October 31. Refugees who apply for international protection and take care of their own accommodation will also receive an allowance, variable depending on their family situation, for 90 days. In addition, holders of international protection and Ukrainian doctors and health personnel will have an immediate work permit.

A Ukrainian woman approaches the Dolhobyczowm border crossing point on March 10 to cross the border into Poland.
A Ukrainian woman approaches the Dolhobyczowm border crossing point on March 10 to cross the border into Poland.MASSIMILIANO MINOCRI

France: subsidies of 426 euros

Although France has a smaller Ukrainian community than countries like Spain —some 18,000 residence permits granted—, the flow of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian offensive in their country continues to grow and more than 30,000 refugees, mainly women and children, have already arrived in France, which is willing to accommodate up to 100,000. Ukrainian refugees will be able to access medical care, receive the allowance for asylum seekers (around 426 euros per month, although the figure varies according to family composition) during the time they are under official protection and will also have the right to request personalized aid for accommodation like many French citizens. The authorities are also working to quickly send the minors to school and 650 are already attending a school in their places of reception, according to the Ministry of the Interior. The national railway company, the SNCF, allows them to travel for free on its regional and high-speed trains.

Spain: papers in 24 hours

Spain has been one of the first countries to adopt the temporary protection directive for displaced persons from Ukraine. It is also one of the few that has interpreted it more generously and has included, for example, Ukrainians in an irregular situation. Spain, unlike other countries such as Germany, Italy or Greece, does not have “reliable data” on the number of displaced people who have already arrived in the country and maintains a “flexible” reception system that allows it to adapt to the influx of refugees.

The reception plan in Spain is based on two pillars: obtaining the documentation, in an exclusive procedure of just 24 hours, and the expansion of the reception network with more than 21,000 beds, thanks, in large part, to the collaboration of the autonomous communities. The Executive has opened four reception and referral centers in Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Malaga and Alicante. Provincial police stations throughout Spain are also processing the necessary paperwork.

The first reception of the displaced has been delegated to three NGOs (ACCEM, CEAR and the Red Cross) that manage state resources. The creation of a national foster care program is also being studied. The large Ukrainian community of 112,000 people is currently absorbing most of the newcomers, but there are already at least a thousand who have applied for shelter in various parts of the country.

A woman and a child, sitting on a train leaving the Central Station of Lviv (Ukraine) bound for Poland, on March 2.
A woman and a child, sitting on a train leaving the Central Station of Lviv (Ukraine) bound for Poland, on March 2.Jaime Villanueva Sanchez

United Kingdom: more voluntarism than reality

The pressure of public opinion has pushed Boris Johnson’s government from the outset to show much more generosity to the refugees from Ukraine than it did at first. While the EU opened its doors, without requesting a visa, to the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the war, the United Kingdom offered a stingy reception plan that practically only Ukrainians who had relatives in British territory could take advantage of. And even then, they had to go through immigration red tape and security checks. The Minister of the Interior, Priti Patel, estimated that 200,000 people would benefit from the family reunification plan. To date, there have only been 6,000.

Harsh criticism from political opposition refugee aid organizations forced Johnson to change his strategy. He put the management of the crisis in the hands of his minister for everything, Michael Gove —today head of the Department of Territorial Economic Rebalancing of the United Kingdom—, who immediately launched a campaign with a mixture of populism, solidarity and lack of foresight . The Government offered 350 pounds per month (about 415 euros) to citizens who welcomed a Ukrainian refugee or an entire family into their home (the figure did not vary, regardless of the number of guests). The minimum stay should be six months. The maximum, 12. But the arrival process was not simplified at all. On the first day the Homes for Ukraine website was launched, nearly 90,000 people registered their interest in participating. The page crashed for hours. The Government referred to the NGOs for the selection process of the people, and was unable to solve the thousands of doubts that arose along the way. There are already more than 120,000 requests from citizens, but for now, the reception process is more voluntary than real.

Romania and Moldova: accommodation, work permit, health and education

In Romania, where half a million Ukrainians have fled the war, it is estimated that there are around 100,000 refugees. The family bond is the main reason for their departure to other countries, but those who remain in Romania – so far only a little over 4,000 have requested reception – will benefit from food, clothing, accommodation, work permits, access to public health and to education, free transportation and psychological and legal help, in addition to financial support of about 120 euros per month, according to the Government. Families hosting Ukrainians will also receive the same amount of money per person, according to the Romanian National Council for Refugees. They will also be provided with translators to speed up their process of integration into society.

In neighboring Moldova there are 99,475 Ukrainian citizens, almost half of them minors, and the authorities assure that they will have all the rights of citizens of the country, with the sole exception that they will not be able to participate in political life. More than 700 Ukrainian children are already enrolled in Moldovan educational establishments.

With information from Antonio Pita (Lublin, Poland), Lorraine Pacho (Rome), Silvia Ayuso (Paris), Maria Martin (Madrid), Rafael de Miguel (London) and Raul Sanchez Costa (Bucharest).

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