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One year after the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive: learnings on protection of refugees from Ukraine

Throughout the past year, nearly 4.9 million people, mostly women and children, have benefited from temporary protection or similar national schemes across Europe. However, we also see that many refugees can't access their rights due to multiple practical, legal, and administrative barriers.

Posted on 02 Mar 2023

On 4 March 2022 the Council of the European Union unanimously activated the Temporary Protection Directive (TPD) for the first time since it was adopted in 2001. This landmark decision provided millions of refugees from Ukraine with access to immediate access to protection, rights, and essential services in EU Member States.  

The activation of the TPD was welcome and timely. Yet, ensuring all refugees from Ukraine enjoy the rights provided by the TPD has not been without challenges. On the one year since the activation of the TPD, NGOs including the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), call for continued support to refugees from Ukraine, for removing barriers to access rights, and for providing clarity on the transition from temporary status to durable solutions.  

“The activation of the Temporary Protection Directive has had a major impact for the millions of people from Ukraine seeking refuge in the EU in the past year. However, to ensure that rights are upheld, Member States must remove barriers to effective access to rights to guarantee that people fleeing Ukraine have access to shelter, protection, legal aid, health services, and employment opportunities. Legal aid is essential for people to know their rights and to enable them to effectively access their rights, including family reunification”, says DRC Executive Director for Europe, Gerry Garvey. 

Inconsistent implementation of the TPD across Member States, including who are eligible to obtain this status, generates uncertainty among people about their status, rights and protection. Some face difficulties re-entering EU countries after short-term visits to Ukraine and maintaining their legal status thereby affecting their access to benefits. Others are referred to live in unsanitary conditions, without being informed about available assistance, often lacking adequate translation support. Although children make up 40% of the refugees and the TPD guarantees right to access national school systems, two thirds remain out of school in their host countries. 

“With no immediate end to the war in sight, rights and protection challenges must be addressed and legal frameworks presenting clarity on people’s longer-term rights must be provided to avoid leaving people in legal precarity and prolonged uncertainty.”, says Secretary General of DRC, Charlotte Slente. 

The welcoming approach to the millions of people escaping the conflict in Ukraine demonstrates how offering immediate relief and dignified solutions even in a large-scale displacement situation is possible and manageable within existing international law, when the political will exists. And it puts the unequal treatment of refugees seeking protection in Europe at display. 

“The discriminatory practices at the EU’s borders are unacceptable. We must do better. Every person fleeing war, conflict or instability must be able to seek international protection and should be treated in accordance with rights and with dignity at all EU borders”, Charlotte Slente says.  

Read the full statement here

Along with other organizations that provide assistance inside Ukraine as well as in host communities, DRC calls on the EU and Member States to redouble efforts to ensure its effective, uniform, inclusive implementation by addressing the following issues: 

  • Address barriers to enjoyment of status and rights 
  • Protect children and ensure they are in school
  • Protect non-Ukrainians, stateless people and Roma fleeing Ukraine
  • Prevent backsliding of support 
  • Invest in refugee inclusion and longer-term solutions from the start 
  • Promote equal treatment of refugees 
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