By Sofia Pegoraro and Klodiana Godaj, 29th March 2022
The escalation of the armed conflict in Ukraine has soon caused a spreading humanitarian crisis, calling for urgent protection services and humanitarian assistance. The emergency, from inside Ukraine faced with shortages of food, water and medicine, is extending outside the Country’s borders. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that around 13 million people are already affected by the conflict. With 3.2 million refugees forced to leave the Country from 24 February, UNHCR is exhorting international agents to act intensively in Ukraine’s neighboring countries. ‘Blue Dot’ safe spaces have been set up by UNICEF in close coordination with national and local authorities. The Countries more involved are Czech Republic, Hungary, the Republic of Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
Poland, one of the Countries more implicated, welcomed already, permanently, more than 2 million refugees. Although some have been redirected in other countries, the majority is expected to remain in Poland. Also smaller countries like Moldova already experienced a flow of 300,000 people with 110,000 staying permanently. The country’s limited resources call for immediate support, already provided by Romanian authorities, supporting the procedure of movement of refugees to its territory.
The magnitude of the humanitarian crisis requires a special strategy to prevent risks of trafficking and exploitation. With 90 percent of refugees being women and children the international interested must be focused on child protection and protection from sexual exploitaion and abuse.
Crucial will be the coordination between State and Non-governmental actors in addressing these issues. The international community should activate to support the inflow of refugees. With the perpetuation of the conflict the need for effective cooperation will become impellent.
Many examples of fast and effective mobilization have been displayed by European Countries.
Following weeks of disorder and disorganization, Belgium is finally coping with the massive influx of refugees from Ukraine.
It is expected that the number of Ukrainian refugees will rise to 200,000 in the coming weeks. A worrying amount considering the short period of time since the beginning of the humanitarian crisis, but the Belgian authorities say they are able to deal with a situation of such magnitude despite the difficulties, that will certainly not be missed.
Due to conflict, Ukrainians are now entitled to EU-wide temporary protection status and do not have to apply for asylum.
Thanks to this EU directive, later transposed into Belgian law, Ukrainian citizens, once registered at the appropriate centers (in Belgium there are about 28,000 reception place in total according to Fedasil) and after being determined eligible, can benefit from a temporary residence permit for a period of one year (until March 2023) or more if the war continues.
Thus, this directive bypasses the traditionally overburdened asylum process and provides a quick and simplified path to access protection.
Most collective structures in Belgium are managed by Fedasil (Federal agency for the reception of asylum seekers) and by the Red Cross of Belgium while the individual ones are managed by the Public Welfare Centre or by NGOs.
Fedasil, therefore, with the participation of all these actors, in particular with the Immigration Office of Belgium, cooperates to ensure that the reception of refugees proceeds well.
As in the case with asylum seekers in general, Ukrainian refugees, once they arrive in these registration centers, receive services such as: accommodation and meals, clothing, medical and psychological support, access to legal assistance and to services such as interpreting and training (in terms of language barriers).
What we are facing today is the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. The focus of world leaders should not neglect the humanitarian catastrophe that is disrupting lives as the conflict goes on. Amanda Paul, Senior Policy Analyst at the European Policy Centre, while taking part during the EPC’s webinar ‘The EU’s answer to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’ on March 21th, stressed how harmful could be the acceptance of the Ukrainian government of a peace deal under the pressure of Europe. On the same occasion Paul suggested how Ukraine should not be pushed to end the conflict at the first opportunity so as to preserve the economy of western powers. Europe should accept the economic and fiscal responsibility of the sanctions it has displayed, effectively coordinating in stopping the humanitarian emergency. As the conflict goes on other substantial aspects should be taken into account. The involvement of children and young citizens could cause long-term damages because of the disruption of the Ukrainian school system. This can be partially prevented if the international community takes on these issues, facilitating for example the integration of Ukrainian refugees in schools. Neglecting this aspect could develop permanent harm.