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Ukrainian refugees in the EU face uncertainty

13 February 20240 comments

Ukrainian refugees who fled to European Union countries after the Russian invasion face uncertainty about their visa status after 2025.

The two-year Ukrainian-Russian war has seen millions of Ukrainian refugees flee to EU countries, where they have received generous support.

Most have been given temporary visas that expire after 2025 and European policy makers are yet to decide what will happen after that.

Initially, the EU temporarily protected Ukrainian refugees for up to three years in all 27 member countries, permitting them to stay and work.

Recently, the bloc extended Ukrainian refugees’ temporary protection to 2025.

But this temporary protection places the Ukrainian refugees in an uncertain position because under a policy change, this protection can be revoked. This means that refugees will have no other option than to repatriate involuntarily, regardless of what they would have chosen to do.

The result would be that refugees, who have successfully integrated into their host countries who may have lost loved ones and homes in the war, cannot decide their own future.

Effectively, their freedom to choose their futures has been taken away by a policy shift in policy from voluntary repatriation to the prospect of involuntary repatriation.

Many Ukrainians in Europe have encountered challenges, including: psychological distress; leaving behind loved ones, community ties and homes at short notice, and; not knowing what the future holds.

Like native residents in these countries, they have also housing issues, rising inflation, difficulty in securing decent jobs, a higher risk of exploitation, and language barriers.

But news reports from EU indicate Ukrainian refugees have demonstrated resilience.

They have integrated into the host countries by taking up service industry jobs and housing. After two years, refugee children are enrolled in schools and have made friends.

But their futures are uncertain future. They have two options: resettlement in the host country or repatriation to Ukraine.

Policymakers and authorities anticipate that the refugees will mostly choose the latter option once the war ends.

One suggestion is that the European Union may be considering something similar to the Marshall Plan to rebuild Ukraine.

The plan would create a strong demand for labour while providing a means to accommodate refugees. This economic and developmental argument holds pragmatic appeal.

But some commentators are asking what will happen to Ukrainian refugees if they want to stay permanently in the EU countries in which they have been given refuge.