Europe must prepare for millions of Ukrainian refugees, says EU

The European Union rushed to coordinate the welcome to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasionspeaking in particular of offering them temporary protected status.

“We have to see what status we can give to these people who are fleeing Ukrainian territory in extremely difficult conditions,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said when he arrived for the talks on Sunday.

According to United Nations, Some 368,000 refugees have fled from Ukraine to neighboring countries, particularly Poland, and their number is increasing.

The EU must ensure they are cared for “as best as possible” as they arrive, and then consider applying temporary protected status, said Darmanin, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

The status evoked is one that the EU has had on its books since 2001, drawn up for refugee flows arising from the conflicts that ravaged the former Yugoslavia, but has never been used.

European Commissioner for Internal Affairs Ylva Johansson said she would urge EU ministers at the meeting to apply the status to Ukrainians.

“It would be the right time to use the Temporary Protection Directive right now,” he said.

Belgian Immigration Minister Sammy Mahdi said his country would push for the Temporary Protection Directive to be implemented.

The move would help ensure “that people fleeing Ukraine receive all necessary protection,” he said.

“They need to be helped,” he added.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser stressed that a quick response was needed.

“The main thing now is to find non-bureaucratic solutions to get people to safety as quickly as possible,” he said.

One option was “a very unconventional admission, without a visa, for example,” for Ukrainians, he said.

According to cooperation agreements between Ukraine and the EU, Ukrainians do not need a visa for leisure or business trips to the EU Schengen zone for three months.

But, fearing that Russia’s war in Ukraine could drag on for months or even years, a solution was needed by the time those three months were up.

There may also be an eventual need to offer Ukrainian refugees the legal opportunity to work.

Faeser said the EU’s current focus was how to help countries bordering Ukraine rather than how to distribute fleeing Ukrainians in the 27-nation bloc; The European Union imposed sanctions on Russia for the attacks on Ukraine.

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