The European Commission expressed their solidarity with those fleeing war in Ukraine at a press conference yesterday (March 8). Commissioners spoke about how the EU is prepared to help refugees from Ukraine.
“All people who are fleeing war will be granted protection and access to the EU health, education, labor and residence [systems], regardless of their nationality, ethnicity or skin color,” Vice President of the Commission for the European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said.
Ukrainian citizens, EU nationals and 3rd country nationals with a long-term residence permit in Ukraine will be welcome in the EU as refugees, Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said. However non-citizens of Ukraine who are living there temporarily, like students, will be welcome to evacuate to the EU, however they will not be able to stay in the EU. Those people will have to return to their home countries.
This announcement comes following widespread reporting that some Ukrainians were being treated differently at the border between Ukraine and the EU. Some have accused EU and national authorities of discriminating against refugees based on skin color and ethnicity, which the Commission clearly denies.
This program is made possible through the Temporary Protection Directive, which was put into effect last Friday (March 4) following a unanimous council decision. The system is designed to help EU Member States deal with a massive influx of people, like the 2 million refugees the EU has seen in the last 2 weeks. The directive was initially designed in 2001, after conflicts in Yugoslavia in the 90’s, however this is the first time the EU has activated the protocol.
“I’m so proud of how member states managed to get together and take the decision when it was really needed,” Johansson said.