Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, more than 4 million Ukrainians and people of other nationalities resident in the country have fled to other European countries. According to the German government, more than 400,000 of the displaced are currently in Germany to seek refuge – among these are thousands of Africans.
While the legal status of Ukrainians has been clearly regulated, courtesy of the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive, that of third country nationals, including students and other short term residents, are somewhat still unclear.
The practical issue of where to stay, how to access health care and what possibilities do exist for the continuation of their studies are some of the concerns of the affected African students in Germany.
Information is the most important thing that new arrivals in a country always need. Here’s a compilation of important information, ranging from residency rights to how to find accommodation, that non-Ukrainian nationals displaced by the war in Ukraine should know:
■ Residency Rights
- A German edict, Ukraine Residence Transition Ordinance (UkraineAufenthÜV), facilitates the entry and residence for persons who have fled the war in Ukraine. This means that these persons can enter Germany without a visa and their stay is considered permitted even without a residence permit (i.e. even before receiving a residence permit for temporary protection or have applied for it). In addition, these persons can apply for and receive a residence title in Germany without having entered with the visa that would otherwise be required.
You are therefore exempted from the obligation to enter the country with a visa or to hold a residence permit while in the country until 31 August 2022 and you are entitled to receive welfare support if you don’t have money to cover your living expenses.
Refugees are expected to submit application to the competent authorities for the granting of a residence permit in accordance with Section 24 of the Residence Act latest by 31 August 2022.
- Ukrainian nationals automatically receive a residence status according to Section 24 of the Residence Act. This residence permit is initially valid for one year and can be automatically extended to a maximum of three years.
The legal residence options for third-country nationals are more complicated than for Ukrainian nationals:
- Family members of persons who receive a residence permit according to Section 24 of the Residence Act also receive the same residence title.
- Recognised refugees from Ukraine and their family members also receive a residence title according to Section 24 of the Residence Act.
- Third-country nationals with a temporary or permanent residence permit in Ukraine can obtain a residence permit pursuant to Section 24 of the Residence Act if they are not able to return safely to their home country (reasons may include political persecution, wars or personal life-threatening circumstances).
As a rule, persons with a permanent residence permit in Ukraine are assumed to be unable to return to their country of origin, according to a directive of the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
- However, there are other types of residence permits that third-country nationals may be eligible for. Examples of such permits are those for studying, work or to receive training.
It’s therefore advisable that you should get individual legal advice from a lawyer specialising in migration law before you apply for any type of residence permit.
- You should not apply for asylum as you are not required to in order to receive help and applying for asylum will lead to a lot of disadvantages for you.
- You can only receive welfare benefits if you have registered your residential address.
In any city or town you find yourself, if you don’t have a place to stay, go to the reception centres for refugees where you will be received and provided accommodation, feeding and medical care.
However, you can also seek temporary private accommodation by signing up on some websites that connect refugees from Ukraine seeking accommodation and people offering accommodation to them.
Please note that such accommodation is usually temporary for a few days or weeks.
Here are some of the websites*:
• https://bpochostinggermany.com/en (for people of African descent)
• https://www.tubman.network (for people of African descent)
(* courtesy of Internationals from Ukraine & Friends Berlin/Germany)
■ Free Services
Here is a small selection of support services that refugees from Ukraine can currently receive in Germany. The list will be updated.
- Travel on Train: Refugees entering Germany from Poland, Czech Republic, Austria can travel free with Ukrainian passport/ID card or Ukranian proof of residence from the border to Berlin, Dresden, Nuremberg or Munich. They do not need a ticket. To travel further to your final destination, go to a DB Reisezentrum (DB Travel Centre) or a DB agency to get a free ‘helpukraine’ ticket. It is valid for a single journey in second class wagon. When you are on a train, please show your Ukrainian document (passport/ID/proof of residence) during ticket inspection.
More information: bahn.de/info/helpukraine
- City and local transport: All journeys by bus, local trains (S-Bahn, regional train, regional express, etc.), underground, trams and light rail are free of charge for refugees from Ukraine. A valid identity document serves as a ticket. The offer is supported by 600 transport companies nationwide.
- SIM cards: In Germany, Telekom and Vodafone provide free SIM cards to refugees from Ukraine with unlimited data volume and unlimited telephony (within Germany and to Ukraine).
■ Useful Links for your Orientation
For you to gain an understanding of the legal situation of people fleeing the war in Ukraine who are currently seeking refuge in Germany as well as receive information and tips on issues such as housing and other relevant matters, visit the following websites:
This is an information service for refugees from Ukraine by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Home Affairs
Essential tips on entry and residency regulations, accommodation, education etc.
A very good guide that provides explanations for the most frequently asked questions, including information and tips on legal, housing and education issues
Free legal consultations for third country nationals fleeing Ukraine is provided by the German Refugee Law Clinics, which offer legal advice by supervised students in the field of refugee and foreign law on a non-profit basis. There are currently over 30 migration Law Clinics in Germany
Key information about your rights with regard to crossing the border into an EU country, eligibility for temporary protection and applying for international protection, as well as the rights of travel inside the European Union.
Compiled by Femi Awoniyi, editor/publisher of The African Courier for the Help for Africans from Ukraine in Germany (HAUG) Initiative