One year on from landmark decision allowing families from Ukraine to enter Europe, commitment to long-term protection needed – Save the Children
A Save the Children employee throws a ball to (from left to right) Maria*, 7, Symon*, 7 and Larissa*, 7 in a temporary shelter for Ukrainian refugees in Frankfurt, Germany (Mauro Bedoni/Save the Children)
BRUSSELS, 3 March – A landmark decision made one year ago allowing children and families from Ukraine to enter the EU and access rights and services on arrival should be extended, Save the Children said today. With no end to the war in Ukraine in sight, and with the reality of safe and sustainable return impossible for many, Save the Children is also calling for the long-term protection of children and their families beyond 2025.
In an unprecedented move, on 4 March 2022, the European Council activated the Temporary Protection Directive (TPD). The directive has given 4.9 million people fleeing the war in Ukraine - mainly women and children - temporary residency, as well as immediate access to housing, education and essential services in EU Member States.
Although the directive has already been extended for another year until 2024, governments need to start thinking about long-term planning to give families from Ukraine certainty about their futures.
“Governments across Europe need to begin investing in options to help families from Ukraine to stay legally beyond 2025. Though the vast majority of refugees long to go home, the war in Ukraine shows no signs of abating. Ensuring they can stay legally in Europe for the years to come will give children a sense of security, stability and belonging in their host countries,” said Ylva Sperling, Europe Director at Save the Children.
“Across Europe, governments should be thinking of long-term residency, labour mobility schemes and well-resourced asylum systems capable of processing a future rising in applications.”
Although families enjoy many rights under the Temporary Protection Directive, including access to social welfare and medical care, many have faced multiple practical, legal and administrative barriers.
Children make up about 40% of refugees from Ukraine. Although the TPD guarantees the right for children from Ukraine to access national school systems, a Save the Children survey found that one-third of children have not attended school since leaving Ukraine, and a quarter did not intend to enrol during the 2022-23 academic year. Capacity issues in some countries remain a key challenge.
“Ensuring these children are in school is essential for their sense of well-being and belonging. EU countries must redouble efforts to expand the capacity of national education systems and strengthen the capacity of teachers to support the integration of students from different backgrounds,” said Sperling.
Refugees have also faced difficulties re-entering the EU and maintaining their legal status and access to benefits after short trips to Ukraine. Free movement has been limited, with some people experiencing problems transferring the rights and protection that the TPD offers from country to country.
Also, seven out of 10 refugees in countries neighbouring Ukraine report that they are unable to meet their basic needs based on their income and support received.
While the TPD has concentrated on emergency assistance for the waves of people fleeing Ukraine, support to refugees must now focus on their inclusion into EU countries. This includes ensuring smooth access to housing, labour markets, education, and other national systems for refugees across all countries in Europe.
There have been some challenges with the Temporary Protection Directive, but its activation has had a hugely positive impact on millions of people’s lives. Europe has shown that it is possible to offer safe and legal routes to safety – but looking ahead, this protection should be offered to all children fleeing violence, no matter where they come from. Too many children seeking safety in Europe from other countries face dangerous and deadly journeys, violent pushbacks and inhumane arrivals:
“The welcome extended to Ukrainian families proves European countries can work together to protect severely distressed and vulnerable children escaping war. A new European approach - one which puts the rights of all children at the heart of asylum policies - is possible,” Sperling added.
Across 13 European countries, Save the Children has been assisting children from Ukraine who have fled the escalation of war in the country in unprecedented numbers. The organisation has also been assisting refugee children from other countries.
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