20th Mar 2023

Ukrainians to get EU protection until March 2024

  • Most Ukrainians fleeing to the rest of Europe are women and children (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)
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The EU has prolonged by 12 months the special protection status for Ukrainian refugees, as Russia carries out country-wide rocket attacks.

The move on Monday (10 October) means Ukrainians will be able to access a number of benefits, up until March 2024, in any EU member state.

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"Unfortunately, there could be a new wave of Ukrainian people seeking protection in the EU after today's attack," Vsevolod Chentsov, Ukraine's ambassador to the European Union, told reporters in Brussels.

Russia fired some 83 missiles at urban targets in Ukraine on Monday, including the capital Kyiv, as retaliation for an attack that partially destroyed over the weekend the Russian-built bridge connecting Crimea and the Russian mainland.

In a possible sign of further escalation, the attacks also come amid an announcement by Belarus autocratic leader Aleksandr Lukashenko to jointly deploy a Belarusian and Russian regional group of troops.

The European Commission's decision to extend its special EU protection status is likely to be a welcome reprieve for Ukrainians fleeing this latest round of indiscriminate Russian attacks.

The one year extension of the so-called EU temporary protection directive offers them the possibility to work, go to school and access health care.

The programme was launched earlier this year and currently covers around 4.2 million Ukrainians, but was set to expire in March of next year.

Some 1.4 million Ukrainians were registered in Poland alone, followed by 709,000 in Germany, and 442,000 in the Czech Republic, according to figures from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Ylva Johansson, the EU home affairs commissioner, said that Russia's latest attack makes the one year extension an important safeguard for those fleeing Ukraine.

She said Ukrainians who return home will be able to retain their EU protection status, should they have to suddenly flee again.

"We have decided that you do not need to deregister [from EU protection] when you go back," she said.

Although they retain the protection status, Ukrainians returning to Ukraine will not access any special EU or member state social benefit while in Ukraine.

Russia's invasion has triggered the largest displacement of refugees in Europe since the Second World War.

Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, on Monday said at least 6.2 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine.

"Millions of Ukrainians, especially the aged and the disabled, are counting on all of us," he said.

He also said that the EU's sheltering of millions of Ukrainians has debunked anti-migrant myths.

"Last year, Europe was seemingly unable to deal with a few dozen people being disembarked from a boat," he said.

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