Europe’s Refugee Crisis Is Going to Get Worse

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Exhausted and depleted, Ukraine’s refugees have endured hell since the Russian invasion of their country in February 2022.

According to the United Nations, at least 12 million people have fled their homes since the war began—over 5 million having gone to other countries, leaving 7 million displaced within Ukraine. It’s estimated that thousands of refugees made the return trip to their homelands to more safe places like Kyiv.

Many of these traumatized refugees fled war-torn Ukraine to seek refuge in Europe, mostly Poland. Most of them are women and children. They tell heart-wrenching tales of loss, destruction and long days spent in underground railroads and basements of theatres.

The European continent is still facing a severe refugee crisis. This has been the most serious in recent decades. Its outcome could determine Europe’s future and democratic principles. Europe’s cities and towns are filled to the brim with Ukrainians in need of immediate medical and psychological counseling, housing for anxious parents, frightened children, frail elderly people, and many without documents or physical belongings—only mental and physical scars from war.

Many ask if Europe can continue to manage the refugee crisis—providing immediate assistance for refugees and middle and longer-term assistance. As the conflict drags on, patience is becoming less and less important. As citizens become more concerned about their resources, internal pressures are mounting on the governments.

There are many stages to refugee crises, with each having its own set of problems. If part of Vladimir Putin’s agenda has been to cleanse Ukraine and impose a massive refugee crisis on Europe as part of an overall de-stabilization of the West, how Europe responds may impact the future of Putin and his regime. Europe is aware that the world will be watching its response to this refugee crisis.

It is noteworthy that the European Union and Ukraine have agreed to use a new Temporary Protective Directive, which grants temporary protection to Ukrainians who flee the Russian invasion. This directive, which was adopted in 2001 in the wake of wars between Yugoslavia (and Bosna) but not yet administered, was first approved. According to the directive, Ukrainian refugees can obtain residence permits that allow them to reside in the European bloc at least for one year. The period could automatically be extended for another year. It may also be renewed up until three years. Ukrainian refugees will also have the right to housing, education, healthcare, and employment for their family members. Protection can be granted by any E.U. protection can be extended to any member of the E.U., and not only the country where the refugee is located.

Europe has shown uncharacteristic flexibility to allow or assist those who have fled from their home without passports or other identification. Member states are allowed to relax border controls, allowing them into their territory. They can then travel to a safer location where they will undergo ID checks. The Commission allows displaced Ukrainians to bring their personal items without paying customs duties. A new arrangement was created by the U.K. to grant refugee status to unaccompanied teenage girls.

However, temporary protection does NOT automatically mean that an individual is granted asylum. Those under the special protection regulations—can lodge an asylum application at any time during their stay. Inevitably there will be backlogs of cases just as America’s refugee crisis got bogged down on asylum cases.

Continue reading: Ukraine is in worse shape than you think

Europe still struggles to avoid legal bureaucratic traps that could lead people into ineligibility. Moldovia, Slovakia and other smaller countries are not able to use their spare capacity. Numerous Ukrainians are unhappy about the difficulty and paperwork involved in getting visas for England. People who want to visit their relatives in America face a lot of red tape, and U.S. government bureaucracy when trying to establish humanitarian parole or asylum. The Biden Administration’s offer to take 100,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to what European nations are providing. Although the U.S. will provide assistance, it appears that they are trying to forecast more Ukrainians returning home to rebuild their lives. That could still be months away.

It is an important issue. Families can take in refugee families for several weeks. It’s another thing to let people book hotel rooms. Human beings require space, shelter and protection. Europe should avoid creating tent cities and refugee camps. Temporary construction must be possible during a period of tight supply chains. There will need to be a European housing “czar,” just to look at living conditions.

Education is another major concern. Many students from Ukraine are receiving online assistance or invited to classrooms in their host country. Summer is here. Refugee children require space and it’s not possible to provide enough. For the countries that border Ukraine—Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, the refugee numbers are matching the population of whole cities. The need for a European education system that can handle schools will increase as services may eventually run dry. The majority of humanitarian and non-profit organizations are not able to provide day-to-day education for refugees.

Then, there are the jobs. As people flee war zones, they will face long-term problems. It is difficult to match skills with jobs. Europe needs to enhance its digital processing for Ukrainians, and make sure that the refugees are separated from non-European asylum seekers still looking work on the Continent. Germany has been the best at providing technological processing for refugees.

Europe must also figure out how it can leverage the Ukrainian diaspora for longer-term housing and medical care. You can use them to aid in integration into American, Canadian or European society.

Those that end up staying in Europe will need to feel part of the fabric of the country—not guests but full citizens, immersed in the day-to-day life. People who want to return home need assistance in getting there, and rebuilding cities that have been destroyed by Russia. There will continue to be trauma, fear and concern that Russia could strike again. To protect Ukraine’s government and democratic institutions, the U.S. and Europe must remain united.

Each person is faced with more challenges as the situation in Ukraine’s eastern region worsens. However, there are reasons to believe that European solidarity and public engagement can continue.

Let’s pray that this consent of the willing will be a guiding light in the days ahead and that those who want to go back to Ukraine, will have that option, and those who want to live in Europe will find those doors open and the critical parts of a full life granted. The challenge facing each person has become more complicated as the humanitarian situation in Ukraine becomes worse.

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