Europe needs to begin long-term integration of Ukrainians as war drags on

BRUSSELS - The European Union member states need to switch from temporary crisis reception to integration for the millions of Ukrainian refugees on the continent. The Russian war in Ukraine shows no sign of ending, which means Europe needs to prepare Ukrainians for living here long-term, the Wassenaar-based think tank Clingendael said on Thursday. 


The EU’s “historic decision” to implement the Temporary Protection Directive for Ukrainians prevented the union’s asylum systems from collapsing under the continent’s largest protection mission in its own region since WWII and also gave Ukrainians fleeing the war quick clarity about where they could go, Clingendael said. It also gave these refugees quick access to the labor market and to education for children. 


So far, over 6.9 million Ukrainians have fled their country. Of them, 3.9 million are registered in European countries, and almost 500,000 are not yet registered as they are using their right to travel in the EU without a visa for three months. 


As the war drags on, it is becoming less and less likely that Ukrainian refugees will return to their country on a large scale any time soon. On the contrary, “more refugees are likely to move from neighboring countries like Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania further into the EU as the conflict persists and economic perspectives in these countries of first arrival decrease,” Clingendael said. 


About a quarter of Ukrainians already wanted to migrate before the war started. And women and children, in particular, are less inclined to return when the duration of their stay increases. 


While EU countries are still deeply enmeshed in this crisis mode of providing temporary shelter and services, it is increasingly clear that for many, the protection will not be so temporary. Clingendael, therefore, urges the EU countries to start working on longer-term solutions.