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How the EU helps refugees from Ukraine

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More than three million people have already fled Ukraine. Neighboring Poland has taken in most of the refugees, especially women and children: there were more than 1.9 million on Wednesday. However, since reception capacities are also limited in Poland, the question now arises whether other EU countries can show solidarity with countries particularly hard-pressed when it comes to refugee aid.

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According to Polish media reports, the will to help in the country remains strong. Consequently, in Warsaw, where a particularly large number of refugees arrive, more than 10,000 people have now registered through a city portal for refugee aid. However, attempts are now being made to move the refugees from Warsaw to other parts of the country. And as Berlin Senator for Social Affairs Katja Kipping (left) told the Tagesspiegel, Poland is now sending many more trains to Berlin because the country has reached its limit.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Ukrainians flee mainly to neighboring countries. As well as Poland, these include Romania, which has meanwhile taken in 467,703 refugees, Hungary (272,943) and Slovakia (220,947). For comparison: According to the Ministry of the Interior, the number of war refugees in Germany has now risen to almost 175,000. However, the actual number is likely to be significantly higher because many refugees do not register at first.

More about the Ukrainian war on Tagesspiegel Plus:

Measured by population, refugee pressure is greatest in Moldova. According to UNHCR, 344,454 people have fled to the neighboring republic, which is not part of the European Union. The EU Commission has now created a so-called solidarity platform, with the help of which the member states of the community can coordinate their help in hosting refugees. In this framework, there are offers from various EU countries to accept a total of 11,000 refugees from the Republic of Moldova. The offers come from Germany, where 2,500 people will find protection, France (also 2,500), Lithuania, Austria and Spain (each 2,000).

Quota system failed in 2015/16 due to Hungary and Poland

The limited number of states that have agreed to accept refugees from the Republic of Moldova makes one thing clear: unlike the 2015/16 refugee crisis, the EU Commission has not set quotas for the distribution of people across Europe. This distribution system failed at the time due to resistance from states such as Hungary and Poland, which refused to receive refugees from Syria.

This time the situation is different after the activation of the EU Mass Influx Directive: refugees are free to choose their place of residence within the EU. So you can decide for yourself how to distribute it. The reception of refugees from other countries is based on the principle of voluntariness.

Ukrainian women who fled the war in front of a registry office in Torrevieja, Spain.Photo: Eva Manez/REUTERS

One suggestion came from migration researcher Gerald Knaus: Refugees could be flown to countries like France, Spain or Portugal immediately after arrival in the EU, thus avoiding overcrowding in cities like Berlin or Vienna. Given this, the Spanish Iratxe García Pérez recalled the refugee crisis of 2015/16 -despite the different legal requirements-.

The leader of the social democratic group in the EU Parliament remembers 2015

At the time, Greece was left largely alone with the refugees within the EU, apart from Germany. García Pérez, leader of the Social Democrats in the EU Parliament, told the Tagesspiegel that he is now in principle in favor of a distribution principle. But he added: “And some countries that have blocked redistribution in the past with respect to all refugees in the EU maybe should rethink now.” However, the reform of the EU asylum system, which has not progressed for years, and the current catastrophe in Ukraine with all its consequences in Brussels as two completely separate issues.

Polish MEP Róza Thun from the Strasbourg Liberals parliamentary group explained in “Deutschlandfunk” why it was easier for the people of Poland to take in refugees from the neighboring country this time than in 2015. The fact that they belong to the Slavic language community by itself it facilitates contact. “These are not very strange people,” she said. Meanwhile, there are eyewitness reports that non-Ukrainian refugees are treated separately at Warsaw Central Station upon arrival.

France wants to take in 100,000 refugees

France was one of the countries that received limited refugee admission during the 2015-16 crisis. The head of state, Emmanuel Macron, has now announced that he will take in 100,000 refugees from Ukraine. So far, some 17,000 people have arrived in France from the war zone.

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