Since Russia invaded Ukraine, some eight million Ukrainian refugees have registered across Europe. The EU has opened its borders and granted displaced Ukrainian citizens temporary protection. With 1.4 million Ukrainian refugees, Poland has taken the largest number. A total of 1,019,789 people entered Germany for reasons related to the war in Ukraine.
Organizations working for refugees have been raising the alarm, accusing European countries of unequal treatment towards Ukrainian refugees on the one hand and refugees from other crisis regions on the other. Ukrainian refugees are being given priority by a two-tier refugee policy.
The EU opened its borders with the Temporary Protection Directive that allowed Ukrainian refugees to enter the European Union without a visa and without formally requesting asylum. In Germany, refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine don't need a visa for the first 90 days if they enter before November 30, 2022. After the first 90 days, they need to register and apply for a temporary residence permit. According to Germany's Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), this provision runs until February 28, 2023.
Depending on the host nation, the social benefits that Ukrainian refugees can access vary. In Germany, Ukrainian refugees have been incorporated into the welfare syste since June 1, where they may receive public health insuranc, permission to seek gainful employment, unemployment benefits, child benefits, financial assistance for students of higher education and retirement benefits. Ukrainian refugees are permitted to travel to Germany by train free of charge, and Germany’s national railway company DB even offers numerous concessions for local transport.
In the early days of the war in Ukraine, refugees who were not considered "white" reported discrimination to various media outlets. In March, the human rights organization Amnesty International observed the situation on the ground and found that refugees fleeing Ukraine who didn't hold Ukrainian passports, and especially People of Color, were experiencing discrimination both in Ukraine as well as in host countries. In Ukraine, the report continued, students from Pakistan, the Middle East and Africa were hindered from boarding trains in order to leave the country.
In contrast, refugees fleeing crises in other countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Iraq receive less.
This is in accordance with the so-called Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act. They can only hope for a residence permit after months or even years of proceedings. Then, after being recognized as refugees, they, too, have access to the welfare system.