The European Union is preparing to grant Ukrainians who flee the war the right to stay and work in the 27-nation bloc for up to three years, senior EU and French officials said, thanking volunteers at the borders for helping those who arrive.
At least 300,000 Ukrainian refugees have entered the EU so far, and the bloc needs to prepare for millions more, they said. EU members Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary have land borders with Ukraine.
“It is our duty to take in those who flee war,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told France 2 TV on Monday, saying EU interior minister had on Sunday tasked the European Commission with preparing draft proposals to grant them protection.
Ministers will meet again on Thursday to agree on the details.
The EU temporary protection directive, drawn up after the 1990s war in the Balkans, but never used so far, provides for the same level of protection, for one to three years, in all EU states, including a residence permit, access to employment, social welfare and medical treatment.
The EU will also help member states bordering Ukraine to cope with the influx of arrivals, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said during a visit on Monday to a border crossing between Romania and Ukraine.
Local volunteers and authorities helping Ukrainians there were “showing solidarity in practice, showing that we are based on other values than [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and we are practising these values,” she said.
Johansson had stressed on Sunday that the exodus of Ukrainians concerns all of the bloc, with many fleeing the war already moving on from EU border countries to others which also have large Ukrainian communities, including Italy, Spain and Germany.
Citing UN estimates, Janez Lenarcic, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, has said four million Ukrainians were expected to flee the country as refugees, with many more displaced within Ukraine.
With men of conscription age prevented from leaving Ukraine, mostly women and children are arriving at the border in eastern Poland, Slovakia and Hungary and in northern and northeastern Romania.
“All EU member states are prepared to accept refugees from Ukraine,” German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said on Sunday.
“This is a strong response by Europe to the terrible suffering that Putin inflicts with his criminal war of aggression: Together, we stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.” [Reuters]