Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has created one of the largest humanitarian crises in Europe’s recent history, with the ongoing war causing increasing numbers of casualties, destruction and displacement within and outside Ukraine’s borders.
Ukraine’s civilian population is being subjected to shelling and violence, with millions of people having been displaced, either within the country or to neighbouring states – mainly to Poland, but also Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Moldova. An estimated 90% of them are women and children, who are also at higher risk of violence and abuse, including human trafficking, smuggling and illegal adoption.
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EU funds to support frontline countries
The refugee crisis triggered by the war has spurred waves of solidarity and mobilisation throughout Europe, with the EU and its member states providing emergency relief to the displaced and support to the countries bordering Ukraine.
On 24 March, MEPs approved the European Commission’s proposal for Cohesion’s Action for Refugees in Europe (Care) to redirect available funds to EU countries sheltering people fleeing from the Russian aggression. This could include an additional €10 billion from React-EU, a fund created to act as a bridge between Covid emergency measures and cohesion funds.
Parliament also extended for one year – until mid-2024 – the period in which the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and the Internal Security Fund operate. The extension allows EU countries to urgently redeploy unused funds to deal with the influx of refugees from Ukraine and is expected to free up around €420 million for additional support, such as accommodation, food, healthcare or extra staff.
Further assistance, such as medical supplies, tents and power generators, has been channelled to neighbouring countries and Ukraine via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and RescEU medical stockpiles.
During the 23-24 March plenary session, MEPs also agreed to provide Moldova with financial support to help with the reception of refugees, in addition to the granting of macro-financial aid to cover part of its external financing needs.
Temporary protection for people fleeing Ukraine
In a resolution adopted during an extraordinary plenary on 1 March, Parliament welcomed the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive for the first time since it entered into force in 2001. The directive aims to grant immediate temporary protection in the EU to people fleeing the war in Ukraine, including Ukrainian citizens, people from outside the EU, stateless people or people with residence permits in the country.
This allows displaced people to benefit from the same rights across the EU, such as a resident permit, the possibility to work, housing, and access to social welfare and medical assistance. Temporary protection does not prevent those concerned from applying for asylum.
On 9 March, MEPs called on the EU to introduce a proper migration system that shares responsibility for refugees.
The EU pact on migration and asylum, which is being negotiated, includes a solidarity mechanism that distributes responsibility for protection among EU countries and measures addressing mass influxes of migrants.
Management of EU external borders
On 2 March, the Commission issued new guidelines to help EU countries manage arrivals efficiently and assist border guards carrying out checks at the borders with Ukraine, including the simplification of border controls for vulnerable persons and the establishment of temporary border crossing points.
Parliament also approved the deployment of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) to help Moldova, which is not a member of the EU, manage the massive number of people crossing the border from Ukraine.