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Are Ukrainian refugees unwelcome in Europe as economic crisis bites?

Ukrainian refugees (Pic credit: IANS)

Europe’s refugee problem is taking an alarming shape. Just last year the continent received a large number of migrants from Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the US troops in August. This year, it is the Ukrainians. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), about seven million Ukrainians have already crossed the borders since the Russian invasion in February. Even as more than 2 million refugees have re-entered Ukraine, this has turned out to be the largest crisis in Europe since World War II.

While Poland has received the highest number of migrants, other countries too have become home to many refugees. But an analyst told India Narrative that the arrangement could be temporary.

“Europe has accommodated lakhs of Ukrainian citizens but this time it may not be permanent..once the war is over, there could be demand to address this issue,” he said.

Amid an acute energy shortage leading to soaring inflation, more and more Europeans are becoming reluctant in sharing their resources with refugees. Though typically, in the medium to long term, migration boosts consumption with greater flexibility to the labour market, governments across the continent fear of a social backlash.

“Internal pressures on governments are increasing as citizens worry about resources for their own populations,”Time magazine said, adding that Europe’s cities and towns are filled to the brim with Ukrainians. They are in need of immediate medical and psychological counseling, housing for anxious parents, and frightened children. Many of them do not even have valid documents or physical belongings which add to their mental and physical depression.

About 900,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Germany, which is currently staring at a recession. Deutsche Welle, in an article said 350,000 Ukrainians are currently registered as looking for employment in Germany, but many of them are struggling.

Among several problems the German human resource managers have also expressed concern that refugees from Ukraine may soon want to return to their home country, DW said.

For the first time, the European Union has provided shelter and other rights to the Ukrainians under the ‘Temporary Protection Directive’ which is a legal mechanism facilitating “immediate and temporary protection in the event of a mass influx or imminent mass influx of displaced persons from non-EU countries who are unable to return to their country of origin.”

Under the arrangement, carved out in 2001, a refugee can stay in a country for the period of the protection — which can last from one and three years. Refugees are provided access to employment, access to accommodation or housing, education for children and several other benefits.

In 2015, Europe had welcomed more than a million migrants from Middle Eastern countries–  primarily driven by the conflict in Syria.

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