EU Home Affairs Commissioner says Europe must prepare to take in millions of Ukrainian refugees
The European Union must prepare to receive millions of Ukrainian refugees on its territory, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said Sunday, adding that at least 300,000 Ukrainians have already entered the European Union since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The European Union scrambled on Sunday to coordinate the welcome of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, speaking in particular about granting them temporary protected status.
“We have to see what situation we can give to those fleeing from Ukrainian territory in very difficult circumstances,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said as he arrived at the talks on Sunday.
According to the United Nations, about 368,000 refugees have fled from Ukraine to neighboring countries, in particular Poland, and their numbers are increasing.
Darmanin, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the EU needed to ensure they were looked after “as much as possible” upon their arrival, and then consider applying TPS.
The situation invoked is that of the European Union on its books since 2001, which was drawn up for refugee flows from the conflicts that ravaged the former Yugoslavia but was never used.
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European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said she would urge EU ministers at the meeting to apply the situation to Ukrainians.
“This would be the time to use the Temporary Protection Directive at this time,” she said.
Belgian Immigration Minister Sami Mehdi said his country would push for a temporary protection directive.
He said the move would help “ensure that people fleeing Ukraine receive all protection as necessary”.
“They need help,” he added.
German Interior Minister Nancy Visser stressed the need for a quick response.
“The main thing now is to find non-bureaucratic solutions to get people to safety as quickly as possible,” she said.
One option, she said, was “a very unconventional, visa-free admission, for example” for Ukrainians.
Under the cooperation agreements between Ukraine and the European Union, Ukrainians do not need a visa for leisure on business trips to the Schengen area of the European Union for a period of up to three months.
But with fears that the Russian war in Ukraine could last for months or even years, a solution was needed when those three months had passed.
There may also eventually be a need to give Ukrainian refugees the legal opportunity to work.
Visser said the current EU focus is on how to help EU countries bordering Ukraine rather than how to distribute fleeing Ukrainians across the 27-nation bloc.