Over the last four months, 4.3 million Ukrainian refugees have gained access to residency, social services, education and employment in any EU country of their choice for up to three years without having to apply for asylum. However, the same open reception should include the 2.3 million refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants from the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa.
In the four months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more than 5 million people, mostly women and children, had fled the country. Adding this number to the millions who have fled as a result of conflicts, violence and human rights violations in many parts of the world, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, reports that global forced displacement has now exceeded 100 million people this year.
With an estimated 4.3 million Ukrainians seeking refuge in Europe, the first-ever activation of the EU Temporary Protection Directive (TPD) is a turning point. The TPD grants Ukrainian refugees access to residency, social services, education and employment in any EU country of their choice for up to three years without having to apply for asylum.
A two-tiered discriminatory system of treating refugees is unacceptable
However, the same open reception should include the 2.3 million refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants from the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa who have taken dangerous routes to come to Europe and who continue to suffer harsh treatments at the borders, in camps and in detention centres.
A two-tiered discriminatory system of treating refugees is unacceptable. For while European countries welcome Ukrainian refugees with open arms, the same countries continue to militarize their borders, build walls such as the one between Poland and Belarus, strike deals with Turkey and Libya to deter refugee arrivals, and more recently, made a scandalous multi-million UK-Rwanda deal that outsources the UK’s obligation to refugee protection to Rwanda. It had to take a dramatic intervention from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to stop the first deportation plane from leaving.
Across the Atlantic, 20 countries, including the US and Canada, concluded the Summit of the Americas with a Migration Pact that will provide migrants and refugees with legal pathways, humane border management, coordinated emergency responses and aid to communities affected by migration. These are welcome measures for a region dealing with forced displacement and migration driven by conflicts, violence, extreme poverty and climate disasters. In fact, these are the same factors that are largely driving migration and forced displacement across the world today, disproportionately affecting the poorest and the most vulnerable.
The almost 1 million Rohingya refugees taking refuge in overcrowded camps in a poor country like Bangladesh also face the wrath of the climate crisis. Storms and floods wash away homes and drown poor communities, both local and refugee population alike.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which hosts the largest population of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) is also a hotspot of climate change. Sub-Saharan Africa, is under threat from a multiple humanitarian crises as it battles cumulative shocks, including conflict, extreme weather conditions, climate change, desert locusts and the COVID-19 pandemic.
These compounded crises, further exacerbated by the food, fuel and economic shocks from the war in Ukraine, will no doubt drive more migration and forced displacement in the poorer regions of the world in the coming months and years.
Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary, says:
Rosa Pavanelli PSI General Secretary
While richer countries receive and host the millions of Ukrainian refugees, this should not be done at the expense of cutting refugee support
“We are commemorating World Refugee Day in a time of escalating conflicts, climate shocks and a difficult period of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. With the war in Ukraine spiralling into an economic, fuel and food crisis, along with the climate crisis, we cannot ignore the reality that more poor people will seek refuge from violence, disasters and extreme poverty.
While richer countries receive and host the millions of Ukrainian refugees, this should not be done at the expense of cutting refugee support nor exchanging development assistance with outsourcing migrant and refugee rights obligations and protections to other parts of the world, particularly where there are plenty of evidence of human rights violations. We need to stop this rearmament race that profits the arms industry and instead focus resources to address the root causes of poverty that’s driving forced migration and displacement.
All refugees have the right to international protection without discrimination of any kind. The right to safety is a human right: no matter who you are, where you come from and whenever you are forced to flee. And as we receive, host and guarantee the right of refugees to safety and to start a new life, we must remain incessant in our efforts to address the drivers and root causes that drive these people from their homes. Investing in inclusive and quality public services, climate justice, gender-responsive and rights-based migration and asylum policies, peace-building and sustainable development efforts for all countries, along with the creation of decent work and guaranteed social protection, are imperative if we want to reduce forced displacements and build a sustainable future for everyone.”