As the war continues unabated, yesterday, EU member states agreed to extend the Temporary Protection Directive one more year until March 2025.
The Temporary Protection Directive was activated on 4 March 2022 for the first time since its creation in 2001. By doing so, the European Union responded to millions fleeing Ukraine and entering EU countries seeking peace and reception.
The directive facilitates the integration of Ukrainian nationals by providing immediate protection. In practice, this means access to residence and work permits and housing, to EU countries’ education and medical systems and social welfare. The mechanism also reduces pressure on the national asylum systems of member states.
According to the Council of the European Union, more than 4.1 million people from Ukraine benefited from the mechanism up to 31 July 2023. Thanks to solidarity and the implementation of the Temporary Protection Directive, assistance for Ukrainian refugees across Europe has been outstanding. However, the new challenge for cities is now transitioning from emergency response to a long-term integration strategy.
Eurocities has launched a City Trends Paper on Ukrainian refugees in cities that gathers local governments’ needs concerning the future of protection for Ukrainians in Europe. The publication gives an overview of the challenges related to the integration Ukrainians, primarily Ukrainian women. It compiles exemplary practices for their integration into European cities, particularly in housing and accommodation, education and employment. Importantly, the paper calls for more clarity about what happens after the end of the directive, so that cities can adapt their services if and when needed.
Katharina Bamberg, Head of Migration at Eurocities, stated: “Adapting service provision in cities according to new legal realities does not happen from one day to another. Local authorities, therefore, need clarity about what happens when temporary protection runs out and how this may affect Ukrainians living in their cities. Therefore, the EU and national governments should decide as soon as possible and well before the end of the temporary protection period what will happen to the residence and protection status of Ukrainians.”
In addition, the paper focuses on the need for additional funding to support the integration of Ukrainian refugees and for this funding to be made more accessible. Lastly, the publication points out the need to include cities in cross-governance discussions on the future of temporary protection of Ukrainians in Europe.
Last June, Eurocities talked with Alberto Horst Neidhardt, Senior Policy Analyst at the think tank European Policy Centre, about what the TPD means locally and cities’ role in welcoming refugees.
It is important to remember that asylum seekers and refugees from other countries are treated under the EU’s asylum rules rather than the Temporary Protection Directive. Those who enter the EU via dangerous migration routes are unprotected and without papers.
In this context, the Home Affairs ministers of the 27 member states yesterday discussed the development of a controversial ‘preventive model’ of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum to manage migration more effectively. Ministers want to tackle smuggling, combat the causes of people’s migration to Europe, develop legal pathways and work on sustainable readmission and return policies.
The European asylum system has been under review and negotiation since 2015. This process is supposed to result in a common EU framework to deal with all aspects of asylum and migration. Ministers aim to establish more precise and fairer rules and procedures for managing those seeking protection in Europe.
Katharina Bamberg said, “cities have been outspoken about their openness to receive and welcome refugees.” In the statement, ‘Caring Cities: Acting in solidarity with all refugees,’ launched in May 2022, Eurocities called for non-discriminatory, equal access to rights and protection for all refugees in Europe.
At the same time as helping refugees from Ukraine, cities need to ensure that all refugees, regardless of their origins and identity, no matter the colour of their skin, their gender, sexual orientation or religion, are receiving the same right to protection. International and EU law that guarantees equal access to rights and protection in Europe for all refugees and people needing safety must be upheld and applied fairly.
An agreement on the Pact files should be reached before the current legislative term ends (June 2024).