Berlin central train station is a major port of arrival for refugees from Ukraine/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

Germany: Ukrainian refugees will continue to receive better treatment — Minister

Labour and Social Affairs Minister Hubertus Heil will maintain higher benefit payments to refugees from Ukraine in Germany compared to asylum-seekers from other parts of the world. This is to remain the case even if their numbers increase significantly during the winter, he said.

“People are fleeing from a terrible war that Putin has instigated,” Heil said in an interview with the Berlin daily newspaper Tagesspiegel. At the EU level, it had been decided that the refugees from Ukraine would not have to go through an asylum procedure. This means that they are entitled to basic social security and can immediately take up employment, Heil, a member of the SPD, emphasised.

According to a decision of the federal government, Ukrainians are treated like Hartz IV recipients and are thus able to be integrated more quickly into the labour market. This regulation relieves the financial burden on the municipalities and the Länder because the basic security benefits are largely borne by the federal government, said Heil.

There have been criticisms of the privileged treatment of Ukrainian refugees. Some critics say the generous benefits given to Ukrainians fuel their immigration into the country. Opposition leader Friedrich Merz caused an outrage recently when he claimed that Ukrainians were commuting back and forth between Ukraine and Germany to collect social benefits. The CDU chief was forced to withdraw the statement under sharp criticisms.

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The preferential treatment of Ukrainian refugees is also being criticised by human rights activists as they considered it discriminatory. They call for the equal treatment of asylum-seekers from other countries. People should have the same rights regardless of their origin or citizenship, they say.

Ukrainians have so far received unbureaucratic access to residence permits, work permits and social benefits in Germany in accordance with the EU Council Decision of 4 March 2022. This has given them an important sense of security at a pivotal time in their lives that has been upended by the catastrophe of war.

However, non-Ukrainian third-country nationals with a temporary right of residence in Ukraine have so far been exempted from the right to temporary protection as war-displaced persons in Germany, if it is assumed that there is a “safe and permanent possibility of return” to their country of origin. Rights activists have been appealing to government to treat all refugees from Ukraine the same way as they have fled the same war, the same violence and their lives have been disrupted, too.

Sola Jolaoso

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