UKRAINIAN REFUGEE CRISIS
Europe opens its doors
to refugees from Ukraine
By City Mayors Research
ON THIS PAGE: Introduction ||| Countries that offer help to Ukrainian refugees ||| Ukraine helpline
ON OTHER PAGES: News from Ukrainian cities and mayors ||| German and Russian cities in time of war ||| Ukrainian war diary |||
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20 March 2022: European Union (EU) member states have agreed that all war refugees from Ukraine, irrespective of their nationalities, will be accepted. The European authorities are prepared for millions of arrivals and it is already clear that the number of refugees will exceed that of 2015/16 when approximately one million asylum seekers arrived from the Syria war zone. Then, it was Germany which took in the bulk of the arrivals. While in 2015, countries like Poland and Hungary refused to accept immigrants from the Middle East, this time all EU countries have promised that all people fleeing the Russian-Ukrainian war will be welcomed.
The EU has decided to activate the Temporary Protection Directive. This means that Ukrainian citizens and persons who are refugees or have subsidiary protection in Ukraine and have left Ukraine after the Russian invasion can get immediate protection and a temporary residence permit without having to go through complex asylum procedures. Immediately upon application, people will receive help with food and accommodation. The protection directive, which was brought in following the wars in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, has existed in 2015 but had not yet been applied.
By 20 March 2022, more than 3.3 million Ukrainians have fled their country, with 2.0 million going to Poland. Hungary has taken in 300,000 refugees, Slovakia 240,000, Russia 185,000, Germany 207,000, Romania 520,000, Moldova 360,000.
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European countries offer
help to Ukrainian refugees
||The Austrian government has set up a refugee hotline to answer questions on medical help, accommodation and job opportunities. Refugee registration centres have been established in Graz, Villach, Ohlsdorf, and Mondsee. Vienna also has an arrival centre set up by Ernst Happel Stadium, where more than 8,500 have received help with emergency care, accommodation and information. (15 March)
Some 15,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Austria to date. While Austria does not share a border with Ukraine, the authorities expect an influx of Ukrainians from Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. Austria's capital Vienna, located about 400 kms from Ukraine's border, has converted a sports arena into a reception centre providing shelter and psychological care for traumatised Ukrainians. Ukrainian refugees may travel on Austrian railways without a ticket. The same applies to public transport in Vienna and other cities. (11 March)
||Starting this week (14 March), Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion can now register their presence in Belgium and apply for protection at the Brussels Exhibition Centre in Heysel. Ukrainian refugees can register to receive “temporary protection” which gives them the right to remain in the country and access the Belgian labour market. Previously, all registration was carried out on the site of the former Jules Bordet institute in central Brussels, which has now closed. Between 100,000 and 200,000 people are expected to arrive in Belgium in the coming weeks, including many children, who will require extra space in classrooms to be made available. In response, the regional government of Flanders is providing extra resources and staff members for the reception of young people from Ukraine, including simplified procedures to create container classes, rewarding schools that take in refugees with extra funding, and a simplified hiring process. (15 March)
The Belgian authorities have prepared more than 10,000 temporary shelters in anticipation of an influx of refugees from Ukraine. Under the initiative 'Plek Vrij' (free space), individuals may register to host refugees. Local authorities are also encouraged to prepare sports halls and other municipal buildings for refugees. By Thursday, 10 March, some 8,000 spaces were registered in more than 500 communities. (11 March)
||More than 70,000 refugees from Ukraine have arrived in Buldaria since the Russian invasion on 24 February. Almost half of those refugees have remained in the country. One-third of the refugees, who stayed, are children. Hotel owners are to receive €20 per person, per day to accommodate the refugees.
The Bulgarian authorities believe that up to 100,000 children and young people will remain in the country and will need to be offered schooling. Some schools in Sofia and Varna are already holding weekend language courses for refugees to study Bulgarian. Those who enter the Bulgarian school system will have Bulgarian language classes for which the state provides funding. (15 March)
||While by 9 March only 63 refugees had arrived in Croatia, the authorities are expecting many more. There are now three reception points on the border with Hungary. Currently, the country has the facilities to welcome some 3,500 refugees but plans are being made to accommodate up to 17,000. (11 March)
||With some 200,000 Ukrainian refugees in the Czech Republic, the country’s reception centres are full to capacity. The country’s authorities have so far been providing Ukrainian refugees with accommodation in hotels, dormitories or state buildings suitable for hosting people. Hundreds of Ukrainians are also housed in Czech households who offered help. The Czech Republic has no direct border with Ukraine but due to its large Ukrainian minority and geographical and cultural proximity to the invaded country, it has become a destination for tens of thousands of refugees. (15 March)
More than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in the Czech Republic, the Interior Ministry said. The Czech ministry announced that the 57,000 Ukrainians who have arrived at the Czech border have already received special visas. Around a quarter of refugees have gone to the capital Prague. Authorities there needed to temporarily shut the city's refugee assistance centre due to capacity strains. Ukrainians comprise the Czech Republic's biggest foreign community, with almost 197,000 residing legally at the end of 2021, according to the Interior Ministry. (11 March)
||From this week (14 March), Ukrainian nationals who have fled to Denmark as a result of the Russian invasion of their country will be able to apply for residence in the country. Municipalities will be asked to take in Ukrainians within days after their residence applications are approved. If the refugees are yet to find a place to live in Denmark, they can apply for accommodation at an asylum centre but without applying for asylum. Any place of accommodation should be as close as possible to job opportunities or any network they might already have in Denmark. (15 March)
Denmark is ready to help countries that took in the bulk of the Ukrainian refugees and, if necessary, welcome some into the country. Denmark, which has a strict immigration policy, confirmed that it will not seize jewellery from Ukrainian refugees, unlike from Syrians and Africans who sought refuge in the country from 2016 onwards. (11 March)
While France has so far only admitted some 14,000 Ukrainian refugees, a spokesman from the Interior Ministry said the country was ready to welcome up to 100,000. (15 March)
France will launch a sponsorship programme to enable French families to provide accommodation to fleeing Ukrainian, the government announced.
The program will benefit entire families as well as mothers or fathers who are traveling alone with children. Under the initiative, the rules reserved for asylum seekers will be relaxed for Ukrainians arriving without passports. Ukrainians will be awarded refugee status for up to one year, a period that can be extended twice. They will receive a work permits as well as a financial allowance given to asylum seekers.
The government has not set a limit on a maximum number of Ukrainian refugees. France usually follows stringent rules for asylum seekers. Several NGOs have denounced the government's unequal treatment vis-a-vis Ukrainians and non-European refugees from African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries. (11 March)
||20 March: An estimated half of the 200,000 refugees that have arrived in Germany are schoolchildren.
17 March: The number of people arriving in Germany from the Ukraine is still increasing three weeks after the start of the war. Since the start of the Russian attack, 187,428 people from Ukraine have entered Germany and been registered. Most refugees are women and children. However, only refugees who are identified by the federal police, for example at the Austrian-Bavarian border, at train stations or on trains, are recorded. The number of arrivals is probably significantly higher.
Between 24 February and 15 March some 160,000 Ukrainian refugees have been registered in Germany. After meeting her Moldavian counterpart, Germany’s foreign minister said Germany would take 2,500 refugees who are currently in the country. Moldova, one of Europe’s smallest and poorest countries, is taking on the biggest per capita share of refugees. (15 March)
Germany, which by 10 March had taken in almost 90,000 refugees, will accept all those fleeing Ukraine, irrespective of nationality. German authorities expect that eventually the number of arrivals will be above one million and be greater than in 2015 during the hight of the Syrian refugee crisis. “Should Russia win the war, it is expected that most of the Ukrainians will stay in Germany rather than return to their home cities.” (11 March)
||Nearly 10,000 refugees have come from Ukraine to Greece since the start of the Russian invasion on 24 February. Many of these Ukrainian citizens include ethnic Greeks from the Mariupol region. (15 March)
Starting 4 April, a special fast track procedures to identify and provide a special biometric IDs to all Ukrainians wishing to stay temporarily in Greece will be in place. Officials from the Health and Education ministries reported on the readiness of health units and schools to admit Ukrainian refugees. Already, five Ukrainian children are attending Greek schools, under the “Inclusive School” program.
The Labour, Agricultural Development and Tourism ministries will look to provide temporary jobs in farming, manufacturing, tourism, catering and technology and compile lists of available jobs. The Interior Ministry has contacted local authorities and the Church of Greece to help with housing and hosting refugees. (11 March)
||In 2015, during the last refugee crisis, Hungary closed its eastern and southern border and erected barbed wire fences, which in 2017 were upgraded to a wall capable of electroshocking anyone approaching it and equipped with loudspeakers warning people in different languages not to approach the country's borders.
Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, the government has somewhat modified its anti-immigrant policies and admitted some 264,000 Ukrainians into the country. The government said it would support an EU agreement which allows refugees from the Ukraine to enter the block quickly and uncomplicatedly. However, the Hungarian government has been criticised for creating unnecessary hold ups at the country's border with Romania. Contrary to the spirit of EU agreement, Hungary now insists that arrivals without biometric passports must undergo additional security checks. (15 March)
||17 March: Ireland has taken in more than 7,000 refugees since the Russian attack on Ukraine began. Through three centers in the capital Dublin, Cork and Limerick, people receive support such as the Irish tax identification number required for social security benefits. So far, Ireland has issued more than 5,000 of these numbers to Ukrainians, and more than 3,000 people have already received temporary protection status.
Almost 6,000 Ukrainian refugees have now arrived in the Republic of Ireland. Ireland lifted restrictions on Ukrainians arriving in the country shortly after Russia invaded. This allowed them to enter Ireland without checks or visas beforehand, as well as access benefits and healthcare, and the right to work.The Irish government has previously said it could take up to 100,000 refugees. (15 March)
Ireland announced it is set to take in more than 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war. It has joined the EU scheme that allows people to settle without a visa for three years. Leaders in Dublin were widely lauded for the move, but the UK Government criticised the measure, suggesting the Irish government could be endangering Britain.
According to London: “Ireland has basically opened the door to everyone in Ukraine, which creates a problem due to the Common Travel Area between it and the UK. We've seen it before with migrants from Albania who they have come through Dublin, into Belfast and then across to Liverpool. That has created a drug cartel route." (11 March)
||Between 800,000 and 900,000 refugees are likely arrive in Italy due to the escalation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Maidan Italian-Ukrainian association believes. Italy's Ukrainian community amounts to 250,000.
Meanwhile, Italy's leader of the right-wing Lega party, Matteo Salvini, has been called out for his previous support of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It happened during a visit to Przemysl, the Polish city on the frontline of the Ukrainian refugee crisis. Wojciech Bakun, mayor of Przemysl, with Salvini standing beside him criticised the Italian politician for his previous support of President Putin. In 2017, Salvini wrote: “For Italy's PD party Putin is a bloody dictator but in my opinion Renzi (the PD leader) is not even worth a little finger of the Russian President.” (11 March)
||Since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the population of Moldova has increase by some four per cent since the beginning of the war. Accommodating and caring for the Ukrainian refugees is costing the country more than €1 million a day, a sum that the economically struggling country simply cannot afford. Germany has agreed to take in 2,500 refugees who are currently in Moldova but other western European countries must offer help too.337,000 Ukrainian refugees have been admitted (15 March)
||By the beginning of this week (14 March), some 6,500 Ukrainian refugees have been offered shelter in the Netherlands. On Sunday (13 March) alone, more than 1,500 new arrivals were counted. In Amsterdam, the Red Cross set up a central location where refugees from Ukraine are received, registered, and referred to a shelter within or outside the Amsterdam region. Over a thousand people have moved through the central location since it opened.
The 25 mayors of the Dutch Security Council have been meeting every week for two years due to the Covid pandemic. Now the agenda of that meeting is switching to the consequences of the war in Ukraine. "We are not thrilled to immediately have another crisis on our plate because a lot has been asked of civil servants in the past years. But it has to be done," said Hubert Bruls, chairman of the Security Council and mayor of Nijmegen. The security regions are responsible for providing 50,000 shelter spaces for Ukrainian refugees. Mayor Bruls expects that many more beds will be needed if the war doesn't end quickly and Ukrainians end up needing to stay in the Netherlands for many months or years. (15 March)
The Netherlands have set up a crisis team to deal with refugees from Ukraine. No one can estimate how many refugees are heading for the Netherlands, but “we have to be well prepared”, the Dutch prime minister said. So far around 1,000 refugees from Ukraine have registered in the Netherlands. Given the treaty between the EU and Ukraine, Ukrainians do not have to report to the Ter Apel refugee centre in Groningen but can stay with friends and family. They will also have direct access to schools and healthcare. (11 March)
||Norway has announced 8,000 new emergency places for Ukrainian refugees. (15 March)
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has launched a humanitarian response plan for the next six-months, aiming to reach 800,000 people inside Ukraine and in neighbouring countries. The organisation has worked inside Ukraine since 2014 and is prepared to scale its operations. NRC's humanitarian response plan calls for €85 million to reach 800,000 people in Ukraine, and the neighbouring countries of Poland, Romania and Moldova. (11 March)
||17 March: Since the Russian attack on Ukraine, around 1.95 million people have fled to safety across the Polish border. Another 60,000 people were dispatched yesterday (16 March). This is a drop of eleven per cent compared to the previous day. There is currently no official information on how many of the refugees stayed in Poland and how many have already traveled to other EU countries.
Since 24 February, Poland has admitted more than 1.8 million Ukrainian refugees. In Warsaw, the authorities are now caring for 300,000 refugees. Warsaw’s Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski said the city’s population had increased by nearly 20 per cent. The Mayor praised his fellow citizens: “It was this incredible willingness of the people to accept Ukrainians in their homes.” With estimates of more than five million refugees, the Mayor called on the UN and the EU to help. “So, we need the UN and the EU, to come and help us to set up a system which is going to go to work when we are going to see millions more. We need also a redistribution of refugees around Europe, because without that the system will crash.” (15 March)
More than 1.42 million refugees from the neighboring Ukraine have arrived in Poland since the beginning of the war. Some 125,800 people crossed the border on one day alone. About 93 per cent of the refugees are Ukrainian citizens. It is unclear how many of the people who arrive in Poland will travel on to other countries. But according to observations by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the overwhelming majority wants to stay in Poland for the time being. A €1.6bn fund for Ukrainian refugees has been set up. (11 March)
||The Portuguese immigration and borders service SEF has launched an online platform in three different languages on Monday (14 March) for requests for temporary protection from Ukrainian residents. The platform will simplify obtaining temporary protection. The platform will be operational in Ukrainian, English, and Portuguese as of Monday (14 March). During the process for temporary protection in Portugal, citizens can get their tax, Social Security and National Health Service numbers, so they can benefit from these services and enter the labour market. (15 March)
Portugal ready to receive tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees. There is a large Ukrainian community in Portugal which is perfectly integrated and established. Many of the people who are coming to Portugal have family or friends already here who will give them initial support. (11 March)
||Open border for Ukrainian refugees. 453,000 refugees admitted. (15 March)
||More than 195,000 refugees have crossed into Slovakia since the beginning of the war. On average, about 10,000 people are crossing into Slovakia every day. Queues in Ukraine can be around three kilometres long. Ninety per cent of the people are women and children and the rest are elderly people. (15 March)
||Slovenia has the capacity to accommodate between 180,000 and 200,000 refugees from Ukraine. The estimate is based on the experience from the Yugoslav wars in the early 1990s, when Slovenia welcomed more than 300,000 refugees from other Yugoslav republics. But, in a clarification, a government spokesman added that, realistically, the country only expected up 20,000 refugees. (11 March)
||Spanish authorities are setting up three processing centres in Madrid, Barcelona and Alicante. The government expects a significant number of refugees. The authorities will be providing transport for all those who want to come to Spain. (11 March)
||Ukrainian citizens can stay in Sweden for 90 days without a permit. They need no entry visa to travel within the Schengen area. This means that a Ukrainian citizen who can present a valid biometric passport at the Swedish border can stay in the country without an entry visa for up to 90 days. (11 March)
||20 March: Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees who are fleeing their homeland due to the war are being helped by the Swiss army, which is providing them with shelter and protection.
Last week (11 March), the Swiss government has decided to issue special ‘S visas’. These visas will allow the holder to stay in Switzerland for a year and can be extended for longer if their safety is at risk. The S visas, something that has never been issued before, will allow employment, allow children to go to school and allow unimpeded travel throughout the Schengen area. Adjustments were made to the visas to align them with similar systems being set up in the EU. So far around 2,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Switzerland. However, more are expected. (15 March)
Switzerland will admit war refugees from Ukraine. Federal asylum centres are prepared to accommodate thousands of arrivals. In addition, Swiss Refuge Aid (SFH), in cooperation with the cantons, will place arriving Ukrainians with private hosts or in cantonal facilities. Following the EU lead, Switzerland will offer Ukrainian refugees Swiss protection without having to go through normal asylum procedures. (11 March)
||20 March: Britain has only issued some 6,000 to Ukrainian refugees.
Yesterday (14 March), the British government launched its ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme. scheme will allow individuals, charities, community groups and businesses in the UK to bring Ukrainians to safety including those with no family ties to the UK. The scheme will allow sponsors in the UK to nominate a named Ukrainian or a named Ukrainian family to stay with them in their home or in a separate property. Ukrainians arriving in the UK under this scheme will be granted 3 years leave to remain, with entitlement to work, and access benefits and public services. Applicants will be vetted and will undergo security checks. Link (15 March)
Ukrainians fleeing their country and wishing to come to Britain will need a visa. Those with biometric passports can apply online, others will have to attend visa application centres.
The UK visa centres in Kyiv and Lviv have been closed. A pop-up centre has been set up in Rzeszow, Poland, near the Ukrainian border.
Two new UK visa schemes have been announced for Ukrainians escaping the war. The Family Scheme enables those fleeing the conflict to join relatives already living in Britain. A second scheme, which is not yet in operation, promises to allow people and organisations to sponsor Ukrainians and match them with a family - irrespective of whether they have links to the UK or not. It is thought that to date only 1,000 visas have been issued. But the government expects to eventually allow in excess on 100,000 into the country.
To be eligible for the Family Scheme, applicants must:
• Have a UK-based family member - immediate or extended
o Be a Ukraine national or immediate family member of a Ukraine national applying to the scheme
• Have been living in Ukraine before 1 January 2022 (the invasion began on 24 February)
The family member must be:
• A British nationalo Have UK settled status, indefinite leave to remain or proof of permanent residence
• An EU, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swiss, or Liechtenstein national with pre-settled status, who started living in the UK before 1 January 2021
• Someone with refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK. (11 March)
• Not EU member countries
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