Ukraine: Commission proposes temporary protection for people fleeing war in Ukraine and guidelines for border checks

Ukraine: Commission proposes temporary protection for people fleeing war in Ukraine and guidelines for border checks

Today, the Commission is proposing to activate the Temporary Protection Directive  to offer quick and effective assistance to people fleeing the war in Ukraine. Under this proposal, those fleeing the war will be granted temporary protection in the EU, meaning that they will be given a residence permit, and they will have access to education and to the labour market.

At the same time, the Commission is also putting forward operational guidelines intended to help Member States’ border guards in managing arrivals at the borders with Ukraine efficiently, while maintaining a high level of security. The guidelines also recommend that Member States set up special emergency support lanes to channel humanitarian aid and recall the possibility of granting access to the EU on humanitarian grounds.

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Europe stands by those in need of protection. All those fleeing Putin’s bombs are welcome in Europe.  We will provide protection to those seeking shelter and we will help those looking for a safe way home.”

Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “In a historically unprecedented move, the Commission is today proposing to grant immediate protection in the EU for those fleeing Ukraine. All those fleeing the war will be provided with a secure status and access to schools, medical care and work. At the same time, we are working to facilitate efficient crossings at the borders for people and their pets, with the necessary security checks. The times are bearing heavily down upon us but the European Union and every single one of its Member States is showing beyond a doubt that we are ready to step up to the plate and stand in solidarity with Ukraine.”

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said: “I’m proud of how the EU and Member States are giving immediate support to those coming from the horrific threats of war. With our proposals today, we will give Member States further capacity to manage this crisis in an orderly and effective way. We will grant residency rights, labour market access and housing to people in need and finally with the guidelines we will make sure those fleeing the war in Ukraine can get to the EU quickly, without going through lengthy formalities at the borders.”

Temporary Protection Directive

Since the Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, over 650,000 people have fled to neighbouring EU Member States. The Temporary Protection Directive was specifically conceived to give immediate protection to the persons who need it and to avoid overwhelming Member States’ asylum systems.

Under this proposal, Ukrainian nationals and people who have made Ukraine their home as well as their family members displaced by the conflict will be entitled to protection across the European Union. Non-Ukrainian nationals and stateless people legally residing in Ukraine who cannot return to their country or region of origin, such as asylum seekers or beneficiaries of international protection and their family members, will also be granted protection in the EU. Others who are legally present in Ukraine for a short-term and are able to return safely to their country of origins will fall outside the scope of this protection. Nevertheless, should be allowed access to the EU to transit prior to returning to their countries of origin.

Given the extraordinary and exceptional nature of this attack and the scale of new arrivals to the EU, the Temporary Protection Directive offers the appropriate response to the present situation by:

  • Providing immediate protection and rights: this includes residency rights, access to the labour market, access to housing, social welfare assistance, medical or other assistance, and means of subsistence. For unaccompanied children and teenagers, temporary protection confers right to legal guardianship and access to education.
  • Reducing pressure on national asylum systems by creating a protection status with reduced formalities. This will avoid overwhelming national asylum systems and allow the Member States to manage arrivals in an orderly and effective way in full respect for fundamental rights and international obligations.
  • Enhanced solidarity and responsibility sharing: The rules under the Temporary Protection Directive promote a balance of efforts between the Member States in hosting displaced persons from Ukraine. A ‘Solidarity Platform’, where Member States can exchange information about reception capacity will be coordinated by the Commission.
  • Further support from EU Agencies: Frontex, the European Union Asylum Agency and Europol can provide further operational support at the request of Member States to ensure smooth implementation of this decision.

Guidelines on border management

The guidelines on external border management clarify the facilitations available to Member States’ border guards under the Schengen rules in conducting border controls. This will help ensure efficient border management to help those fleeing the war find shelter without delay whilst maintaining a high level of security checks.

The facilitations available include:

  • Simplification of border controls at the EU’s borders with Ukraine: Under the Schengen rules, border guards can temporarily relax border checks in exceptional circumstances for certain categories of persons. The guidelines lay out criteria to help Member States decide whom this could apply to, addressing the needs ofvulnerable travellers such as children. Where the identity of the person arriving cannot be established, the regular border check should apply. In addition, Member States can also decide to perform border checks during or after the transport of the travellers to a safe location, and not at the border crossing point. These two measures will help reduce waiting time at the border so that people can reach a place of safety without delay.
  • Flexibility as regards entry conditions: Under the Schengen rules, border guards can authorise non-EU nationals to enter a Member State’s territory on humanitarian grounds even if they do not fulfil all entry conditions (for instance, even if they do not have a valid passport or visa with them). Member States could apply this derogation to allow entry to all those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.
  • Allowing crossings at temporary border crossing points, outside official border crossing points: This could help reduce delays at the border in the current situation, for example in case the roads to official border crossing points are blocked by abandoned cars.
  • Easy access for rescue services and humanitarian assistance: Member States should make special arrangements to facilitate the entry and exit of rescue services, police and fire brigades, including to provide medical assistance, food and water to people waiting to cross the border. Member States should also set up special lanes at border crossing points to ensure access and return of organisations providing humanitarian assistance to people in Ukraine.
  • Personal belongings and pets: Those displaced from Ukraine can bring personal belongings without any customs duties. The guidelines also clarify the facilitations available for those coming with their pets.

The guidelines strongly recommend Member States make use of the support EU Agencies can provide – with Frontex able to assist on identifying and registering people arriving and Europol available to deploy officers supporting Member States with secondary checks.  

Next Steps

 It is for the Council to adopt the Temporary Protection proposal. The Council already expressed broad support for both measures at the extraordinary meeting of Sunday 27 February and has committed to discussing the two documents at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on Thursday, 3 March. Once adopted, temporary protection would start applying immediately and run for 1 year. This period is extended automatically by six monthly periods for a further year.

The Commission can propose at any time to the Council to end the temporary protection, based on the fact that the situation in Ukraine allows the safe and durable return of those granted temporary protection, or extend it, by one further year.*

The guidelines on external border management is a non-binding document intended to support border guards in their work. Member States’ border guards can immediately start making use of the clarifications it provides. 

Background

Since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the EU is supporting the people of Ukraine. Through sanctioning Putin’s Russia and the Lukashenko regime in Belarus and stepping up its humanitarian support as well as financial and operational support to Member States, the EU and its Member States are providing a safe haven for people fleeing war in Ukraine.

Temporary protection is an exceptional measure to provide immediate and temporary protection to displaced persons from outside the EU and  unable to return to their country of origin.

The Schengen Borders Code – which sets the rules governing the crossing of the EU’s external borders and the entry conditions inside the EU for non-EU nationals – provides for flexibility in specific cases, to reduce formalities to a minimum in urgent crisis situations. Today’s guidelines clarify the possibilities and facilitations available to Member States’ border guards in managing the situation at the EU’s external borders with Ukraine.

Source: Commission proposes temporary protection status (europa.eu)

Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/nl/illustrations/familie-gemeenschap-lappendeken-76781/

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