People from Ukraine arriving at the Munich train station being attended to by volunteers of Caritas/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

Prolonged stay of Ukrainian refugees likely – German minister

The opinion of migration experts that refugees from Ukraine will stay longer in Germany as expected has now been supported by a member of the federal cabinet. Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil considers a longer stay of war refugees likely due to the level of destruction in many Ukrainian cities.

“We have to be prepared for long periods of stay over several years,” he told the “Rheinische Post”, a newspaper in Düsseldorf, at the weekend. Although many people from Ukraine would like to return quickly, many others also wanted to stay for a much longer period in Germany, the minister said.

“That is why we also need real integration and not interim solutions where people are only exploited as unskilled labour,” said Heil.

As from 1 June, those seeking protection from Ukraine will receive all benefits from a single source at the job centres, the Minister emphasised. “It is also important to make rapid progress in childcare, as it is mainly women with children who are coming,” Heil explained. “We also have to improve the recognition of professional qualifications so that people have the prospect of staying.”

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, more than 700,000 people have arrived in Germany to seek temporary refuge out of the more than four million people – mostly women and girls – who have fled thier country.

Under the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive, which entered into effect on 4 March, refugees from Ukraine have the right to live and work in the European Union for at least one year, a period that can be extended for additional two years. The regulation, which applies to Ukrainians and third country nationals permanently living in the country, provides a framework for the protection of people displaced by the war.

The Directive is however not clear on the situation of third country nationals who are short-term residents in Ukraine, such as foreign students. The Directive only required that they are provided temporary protection to enable them return to their home countries. However, lawyers say these persons could apply for other forms of residence permit such as to study, work or receive training.

Refugee support groups have been calling on the government to grant the same level of protection to all persons displaced by the war as returning to their home countries would cause the short term residents immense hardship.

Sola Jolaoso

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