Europe begins to roll back assistance programmes for Ukrainian refugees

Europe begins to roll back assistance programmes for Ukrainian refugees

A number of German regions have imposed a moratorium on receiving Ukrainian refugees. The doors for them are closed to districts and communes in the states of Brandenburg, Saxony and Bavaria, the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) has reported

For example, Brandenburg authorities claim that the region is overpopulated. In Saxony the decision has been justified by the fact that the quota of those eligible for welfare benefits has been exceeded. The problem of “overpopulation” was also faced by Bavaria, which received a large number of refugees in the first months after Russia announced a special operation. North Rhine-Westphalia has also been forced to redistribute the flow of Ukrainians, SZ reported.

As the paper notes, it has recently become common for refugees from Ukraine to find accommodation in the private sector of any of the German regions to find out that they have no right to stay there by law. Länder, districts or communes that have imposed a moratorium explain such a move by the need to protect local schools, kindergartens, as well as medical and public institutions, SZ explained.

Meanwhile, as the German Federal Employment Agency earlier noted, the flow of Ukrainian refugees led to a significant increase in unemployment in July. According to the agency, there are now almost 2.5 million unemployed in the country, which is 107,000 more than in June.

European fatigue

Meanwhile, experts point out that in Europe as a whole the level of support for Ukrainian refugees has decreased. Thus, at the end of March Estonia announced that it was not ready to receive more than 50 thousand citizens of Ukraine, fleeing the hostilities. According to Signe Riisalo, the republic’s minister of social protection, otherwise the country will have to build camps for the new arrivals.

Bulgaria on 31 May announced the end of a humanitarian programme that had been providing Ukrainians with free accommodation at hotels on the Black Sea coast. According to the country’s deputy prime minister, Kalina Konstantinova, Bulgaria needs to have a successful tourist season, as the tourism industry accounts for a significant percentage of the state’s GDP, which is why all the hotels occupied on a free basis should be released.

“The only way you can stay in the hotel you are staying in is if the hotelier decides to cover your expenses or make you individual accommodation offers,” Konstantinova explained in an appeal to Ukrainians.

At the same time, she noted that those refugees who would have nowhere to go would be offered temporary accommodation in buffer centres after May 31.

In Switzerland, Miriam Behrens, director of the local refugee service (SFH), said some 30,000 Swiss families had previously expressed willingness to host those fleeing the war, but over time some of them began to tire of “guests”.

“We found that some were surprised by the presence of cultural differences… There are still differences. And when children are around, it can lead to discord,” Behrens told SRF television in mid-June.

For its part, the Czech Republic noted that due to the influx of refugees, it cannot cope with their accommodation. In mid-June, Prague authorities even closed the Regional Assistance Centre for Ukraine (KACPU) indefinitely, České noviny reported.

“If the situation with the distribution of refugees changes, we are ready to open KACPU. But we cannot accept people where we cannot take care of them,” RBC quoted Czech capital’s mayor Zdenek Hřib as saying.

The Czech Republic has also acknowledged the need to tighten the conditions for Ukrainian refugees to avoid the flow of “subsidized tourists” into the country. In this connection, the country’s senate approved an amendment to the Lex Ukraine law, according to which refugees who receive free accommodation and food from the state will not be able to claim a humanitarian allowance of 5,000 Czech crowns (about €200). The amendment also regulates health insurance for displaced persons and a contribution to households for their free accommodation. So, the authorities will cover health insurance for refugees only for 150 days. An exception is made only for children and the elderly.

Latvian Interior Minister Kristaps Eklons said on LTV on July 21 that it was getting signals from municipalities about difficulties in further accommodation of Ukrainian refugees.

“It is clear now that it (the conflict. – RT) will take longer, and everyone is tired, it is humanly understandable,” RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.

According to the country’s Interior Ministry, 32,000 to 33,000 Ukrainian refugees have already arrived in Latvia, of which about 12,000 are placed in state or municipal housing and the rest have found their own place.

Meanwhile, in Poland since July 1, payments to refugees from Ukraine for food and shelter at the rate of 40 zlotys per person per day have been stopped and free travel in public transport and trains of the Polish carrier Intercity has been abolished. These measures were announced back in late May by Polish Deputy Interior Minister Pawel Schaefernacker. According to him, only the disabled, pregnant women, women with children up to a year old and women with many children will continue to receive assistance. Shefernaker explained that the decision to cut the payments was made to encourage newcomers to adapt to the country.

According to the UN on 1 August, more than 5 million Ukrainians have entered Poland since 24 February; since 28 February, more than 3 million have returned to Ukraine. 1.2 million registered Ukrainian refugees remained in Poland.

Overall, the UN refugee agency said more than 10 million people have left Ukraine since the start of the conflict to date, of which some 4.2 million have returned home. The organisation estimates that more than 6 million refugees remain in Europe so far.

“Decisions were taken in a hurry”

Vladimir Olenchenko, a senior researcher at the Centre for European Studies at IMEMO RAS, said in a conversation with RT that the current situation of Ukrainian refugees in Europe was the result of hasty decisions and conclusions made by Brussels regarding the conflict in the republic.

“Decisions were taken in a political frenzy. There was an urgent need to help Ukraine and crush Russia with sanctions. At the same time, no thought was given to the long-term prospects of this aid and the consequences of this pressure. In addition, they did not take into account who can be considered refugees from Ukraine, considering that Ukrainians have the right to freely enter and leave the EU territory,” the expert explained.

For his part, political analyst Yuriy Bondarenko said in a commentary to RT that no one in the EU expected that it would take so long to help Ukraine.

“Everyone thought that this was a one-off action which would quickly end after Russia retreated under the pressure of Western sanctions and the refugees would triumphantly return home. Consequently, the countries that took them in would be perceived as saviours, especially in the wave of wild Russophobia. However, the situation has taken a different turn – and the ‘saviours’ have received the ‘rescued’ as dependents,” the analyst said.

He also suggested that host countries will eventually tighten the screws on Ukrainian refugees because their budgets are not designed for long-term charity.

“Those who choose to stay longer in Europe will experience all the pleasures of treatment, which will only get worse as Western countries become more enlightened about the reverse effect of sanctions. And I am more than sure that the remaining Ukrainians will be treated much worse,” Bondarenko said.

He added that for Europe, overpopulation by Ukrainians could be fraught with social and economic explosions.

“The European average citizen is so used to a comfortable life that any drop in living standards will be painfully accepted. So there will be a search for someone to blame. But as Russian President Vladimir Putin is already “to blame” for everything, he will no longer satisfy the European population as the source of all the troubles. However, Ukraine’s own elites and Ukrainians may get the blame,” the analyst suggested.

Political analyst Andrey Manojlo expressed a similar point of view in a conversation with RT. He believes that the influx of Ukrainian refugees may aggravate the criminal situation in Europe.

“Because people who were in various Nazi formations and organizations in Ukraine are also fleeing the conflict zones. Where they emerge, there are channels for supplying weapons from the war zone, including Western-made weapons. And where weapons are supplied, other components of the criminal world will also be involved,” the expert explained.

At the same time, he believes, Europe had little chance to avoid being dragged into the Ukrainian conflict, as it is under the great influence of the US.

“Europe is expendable for Washington: European money is used to buy US weapons to supply Kiev, it is also used to keep Ukrainian refugees. The US acts as a control centre for the European Union. In addition, a large part of the European elites are people who trained in the US and made their careers with the help of Washington. Therefore, the current European politicians will not go against the US, even if it harms their own countries,” Manojlo summarised.

Polina Dukhanova, Alyona Medvedeva, RT

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