Tracking cookies

To make our website even easier and more personal, we use cookies (and similar techniques). With these cookies we and third parties can collect information about you and monitor your internet behavior within (and possibly also outside) our website. If you agree with this, we will place these tracking cookies.

Yes, I give permissionNo thanks
{aantal_resultaten} Resultaten

War payment. How European aid to Ukrainian refugees is changing a year after the start of the Russian invasion


“Europe is tired of refugees, aid is being reduced and generally canceled, homeowners are evicting refugees and driving them home,” these kinds of statements in the form of rumors and gossip, and even headlines in the Russian media have been heard more and more often lately.

Assistance programs for Ukrainian refugees are indeed changing, as is the system of legalization in different countries.

But Europe is tired not of Ukrainian women and children seeking protection, but of war, aggressive Russia and daily news about new victims.

Now we can rather talk about the restructuring of aid: a year has passed, and if at the beginning of the war European countries accepted everyone spontaneously, and laws and regulations were adopted after the fact, now the governments of many countries are changing the schemes and formats of assistance to Ukrainians. But they do not deprive, do not expel, do not force to be sold into slavery.

Poland: refugee status or residence permit?

Since the beginning of the war, according to the UN, 7.86 million refugees from Ukraine have registered in European countries. Most of all - 1.57 million - remained in Poland, which became the main European center for their reception. From there, people traveled to other countries, where there were relatives, friends, or simply offers of help.

One and a half million Ukrainians who remained in Poland received all this time not only state assistance, but also “horizontal” assistance: immediately in the border processing centers, mobile operators distributed SIM cards with free calls to Ukraine and the Internet included, Polish residents provided free housing, carried to receptions of refugees things such as food, blankets, bed linen. Veterinarians came to these points for free reception of pets. Doctors, psychologists and even hairdressers worked for refugees in different cities for free. Organized day groups for children, collected toys and strollers, invented entertainment while their mothers were busy with paperwork. In every supermarket there were baskets where customers put packs of diapers, bags of cereals, hygiene products for refugees. The websites of state bodies, schools, retail chains were supplemented with a Ukrainian interface.

The self-organization of the Poles to help the Ukrainians was and remains an outstanding social phenomenon.

On March 12th, Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the law "On assistance to citizens of Ukraine in connection with the armed conflict on its territory." This law provided for the legal stay of Ukrainian citizens on the territory of Poland for 18 months from February 24th, 2022 (we are talking about Ukrainians who crossed the border with Poland after the start of the war). Each Ukrainian is entitled to a one-time assistance of 300 zlotys (65 euros) and access to the 500+ program (for each child under 18, the state pays 500 zlotys every month - this is about 107 euros), free medical and legal assistance, and language courses.

Citizens of Ukraine who came to Poland get access to the labour market without additional documents - only after receiving a PESEL (identification number in Poland). This is still the case, nothing has changed.

Something else has changed. Payments to Polish families who settled refugees have ended. But this happened last year - from July 1st. Prior to that, the families that provided Ukrainians with housing received compensation from the state - 40 zlotys per day (8.7 euros). The program was designed for two months, but in the end it worked for four. Since June 1st last year, free trips for refugees by trains and in urban public transport have been canceled - only towards the border with Ukraine and from the border was it possible to travel free of charge until the end of July.

However, Ukrainians did not expect endless protection: during this time, most were able to find work, arrange children in kindergartens and schools, or travel further to the West.

“The first question that these exhausted women with children asked me, having barely found themselves on the territory of Poland, was a question about work,” says volunteer Yuliya. “They didn’t ask about what they were entitled to from the state as refugees, they immediately thought about the possibility of starting to earn money on their own.

The Ukrainians settled down. Immediately, sometimes without understanding the peculiarities of what they sign.

“The beauty industry is a huge market, and our masters are highly valued,” says hairdresser Tatyana from Odessa. I immediately, without even knowing a word of Polish, got a job in a beauty salon through groups of refugees in social networks. I especially preferred the salon owned by our girl from Ukraine.

But when I started to draw up paperwork for obtaining a residence permit, I found out that the hostess gave me to sign not “umova o pratse” (employment contract), but “umova zlezenya” (contract agreement) for a month. And it turned out that I worked illegally for half a year, without insurance, taxes and deductions.

Now that I have started working in a salon owned by a Pole and learned a little the language, I have a real employment contract, paid vacations and [the opportunity] to [take] sick leave if necessary. By the way, surprisingly, but true, we discussed this in professional chats, and it turned out that in a similar situation, for the most part, it was those masters who went to work for their compatriots. In those places owned by locals, everything is strict and according to the law.

A residence permit is a new story for Ukrainian migrants. We habitually call all of them refugees, but in fact, after 18 months of temporary protection, which makes it possible to legally stay in Poland, Ukrainians must choose either to apply for refugee status or for a residence permit. Refugee status is not assigned automatically - only after an application is submitted. Of course, the state will not refuse a Ukrainian who fled the war, but there are some nuances.

An applicant for refugee status does not have the right to work while their case is pending. A residence permit, on the contrary, is granted on the basis of an employment contract or documents on registration of individual entrepreneurs.

In any case, there is a choice.

On January 23rd this year, Andrzej Duda signed amendments to the law "On assistance to citizens of Ukraine in connection with the armed conflict on its territory."

Now, if a citizen of Ukraine leaves the territory of Poland for more than 30 days, they will lose their status and benefits.

In addition, citizens of Ukraine who are in places of collective residence of refugees, from March 1st, must cover half of the costs of assistance provided by local authorities (but not more than 40 zlotys per person per day), and from May 1st - 75 percent (but not over PLN 60).

Polish Vice Minister of the Interior Pavel Shefernaker said that during the year of the war, Poland spent a total of 12 billion zlotys (2.56 billion euros) on helping refugees from Ukraine.

At the same time, half a million Ukrainians work in Polish companies, and during this time 10,000 Ukrainian companies have been registered. Part of the money spent is already returned to the treasury in the form of taxes.

The attitude of people towards refugees in Poland has not changed. Of course, from time to time there are comments and posts on the topic “Who will take care of our Polish children?” or “Why doesn’t the US give Poland money, it’s their policy that led to the war!”, but these are the usual “talks on the bench” that have always been and will be, regardless of the millennium in the yard and the geographic coordinates of that very bench.

Germany: country of the human factor

The second European country after Poland in terms of the number of accepted refugees from Ukraine is Germany (922 thousand, according to the UN). Almost from the very Polish-Ukrainian border, from Przemysl, a free evacuation train for Ukrainians leaves for Hannover every other day. And no one is going to cancel this train yet, as well as stop accepting refugees. According to German Interior Minister Nancy Feser, Europe needs to make efforts to distribute Ukrainian refugees more widely among countries, but its state does not stop accepting them. And while not going to change the principles of assistance.

“My family is incredibly lucky,” says journalist Marina Kuraptseva, who escaped from Borodyanka. We had an acquaintance in Germany, Serhiy Kosyak, who received us, helped us to accommodate and organized the evacuation of Ukrainians. It was the "Hospitable German Family" project. In general, Sergei is a Donetsk pastor who was the organizer and inspirer of the “Prayer for Ukraine” in occupied Donetsk, for which he paid the price: he was captured and miraculously did not die. He lives in two countries, and his wife and children live in Bautzen.

Already in Germany, we learned that he was resettling refugees, and turned to him. He helped, settled us in a German family. It looked like this: refugees are accepted by a local family, for each Ukrainian they receive 10 euros a day. For the four of us - me, my sister and our parents - the host family received 40 euros.

The Germans with whom we lived contributed to our psychological rehabilitation, satisfaction of basic (and not only basic) needs, helped to register.

At that time I did not know and did not understand the registration mechanism itself. It must be borne in mind here (and this is not only in Germany, but also in many other countries) that some came through refugee camps, others to relatives, others did not register at all, because they had money and people intended to just sit out until their regions will calm down.

The registration mechanism a year ago and now are different. Then, in March 2022, when we arrived, everyone was accepted here indiscriminately, and a lot depended on which land you were going to. It was possible to get on a bus at the train station in Berlin and go to Heidelberg by mistake (this is our story: we drove to the border with Luxembourg, almost died in the refugee camp, because there was nothing at all: no one expected that on March 8th - so fast - someone will come there; and the Germans wept with us).

Then Sergei Kosyak helped us to come to Dresden and took us from there.

Germany, like the whole of Europe, is unorganized in terms of the fact that there is no single system for receiving refugees.

That is, it seems to exist, but each land has its own systems. For example, in Saxony we have translators in job centers and social services, there is a bureau for translation and filling out documents. But there are lands where there is nothing like that, not even translators.

The Hospitable German Family project was closed in June last year. But for four months of living in a German family, we were registered in a migration office and began to pay benefits. There is no single amount of benefits in Germany, as in some other countries - it depends on many factors. You look for an apartment on your own, and the job center only approves the area and the amount of rent, because it is this person who pays for it. This amount also includes water. We pay for electricity ourselves, for four of us it costs 192 euros per month. And the Internet, of course, too.

The amount of the allowance depends primarily on whether there is any income in Ukraine. Some fellow citizens hide the income from sole proprietorship (“a physical person - pіdpriєmets”, an analogue of an individual entrepreneur. - ed.), and in vain: they will still find all the contracts, it’s better not to hide anything here.

I registered here as a freelancer and legalized Ukrainian income. They recalculated my allowance and simply deducted them from there. Thus, my allowance at the moment is 382 euros. At the same time, my needs, as determined by the job center, are about 600 euros, so that I have enough for my part of the rent (the total rent is 480 euros per month, 120 for each family member, they are paid by the state).

In general, the Germans very clearly describe to everyone how much the state spends on it. Therefore, for example, I know that gas heating costs 90 euros per person. In general, the “communal” here is very expensive, and I know that many Germans sit by candlelight in the evenings, preferring to save electricity.

My sister, who has no income in Ukraine, has an allowance of 405 euros. She is also registered as a volunteer and receives another 200 euros per month from the state - this is a fairly popular form of employment. My parents' pensions were recalculated and the amount of benefits was also recalculated. Mom ended up with 360 euros, dad got 200 and something, I don’t remember exactly. Fortunately, in the near future I am leaving the “social” and going to work part-time in a public organization. Then I myself will pay for everything - 120 euros for rent, and 90 for gas, and my part for electricity, and the Internet, and so on in my name.

Many people say that in Germany there is a mess with benefits. This is wrong. It's just that Germany is a country of the human factor, there are no single numbers here. Someone has a mine regression (insurance payments. - Ed.) 25-30 thousand hryvnia - naturally, they will not be given any benefits here. And someone has a social pension, and here this person will sit on benefits. The state is not going to stop helping refugees or reduce it.

The only problem is the language courses. There are so many refugees that there are not enough schools and teachers. Saxony is packed to capacity.

And many do not know how to register. For example, for the whole of Bautzen we have one Herr Deubner, who manages the language courses. But on which fence is it written that you need to go exactly there? We are always indignant why registration for courses cannot be done at the same time as registration. My family has been waiting for the courses for more than a year, and now they promised us these courses only in May. At the basic level, of course, I have mastered the German language, but I need to know it perfectly.

Switzerland, Romania, Czech Republic: car, 50/20 and Lex Ukrajina

The authorities of the Swiss cantons (83 thousand refugees from Ukraine are registered in Switzerland) also, like in Germany, proceed from the human factor when assigning benefits, so there is no single figure there. And now Switzerland is also changing some of the rules for providing assistance.

Sometime in the nineties, when the war in the Balkans began, Switzerland developed a mechanism for granting S status to persons seeking protection. With regard to Ukrainian refugees, this mechanism was activated on March 11 last year.

Status S is temporary protection for a period of one year with the possibility of extension and without the need to go through the normal asylum procedure. Ukrainians with this status are divided into cantons, where they can receive social assistance, attend language courses, and get a job.

And now, at the end of the first year of S status, local authorities in some cantons have ordered Ukrainian refugees to “inventory” their assets and sell their cars. Of course, this will not affect those who have found a job and do not receive benefits.

The second option being considered by local governments is to park the cars and surrender license plates, that is, to keep them until a possible return to Ukraine. This is not discrimination against Ukrainians, on the contrary, they are thus equated with other residents of Switzerland who receive social assistance from the state.

Romania (109,000 refugees from Ukraine, according to the UN) maintained its 50/20 social support program for a long time. If Poland paid homeowners 40 zł per day for each accepted refugee for four months, until July 1st last year, then a similar program in Romania is still running. Homeowners who provided help to Ukrainian refugees receive compensation from the state - 50 lei for accommodation and 20 for food (70 lei - about 14 euros).

But in the near future, the support program is changing: now, instead of compensating homeowners, the state will pay Ukrainians 400 euros a month for a family for four months - during this time they must find a job and continue to pay for housing on their own.

The 50/20 program, however, will continue for students studying in Romania and Ukrainians over 65 years old.

“This program was beneficial for both the Romanians and us,” explains Galina, who temporarily lives in the city of Cluj-Napoca. My sister and I live in a one-room apartment. The hosts receive for the two of us, if we convert lei into euros, 28 per day - 840 euros per month. They return about 225 to us, because this is money for food. But still it turns out more than 600 euros. Yes, they would never rent an apartment for that kind of money in their lives! And we felt good: the owners are interested in our stay. Although it was, of course, very costly for the state, I admit it.

The Czech Republic (503,000 refugees from Ukraine, according to the UN) at the end of March adopted amendments to the Lex Ukrajina law, which has been in force since March 17th last year. The law provided for Ukrainians to receive benefits of 5,000 kroons (213 euros) per month for six months, then 4,860 kroons (207 euros) for an adult and 3,490 kroons (149 euros) for a child. This applied to those who do not have free housing, food and income. Homeowners who settled refugees in their apartments and houses received compensation from the state (“solidarity payments”): up to 9,000 kroons (384 euros) per month for three or more people if they lived with the owners, and up to 15,000 kroons (640 euros) - if the refugees were provided with separate housing.

From April 1st, 2023, after the amendments came into force, the amount of financial assistance has decreased to 4,860 kroons for an adult, and after 150 days of receiving such assistance, to a minimum of 3,130 kroons (133 euros).

Of course, this will not affect children, the disabled, pensioners, students. Free housing can also be provided for up to 150 days, and if a refugee leaves them for more than 10 days, they will lose this housing.

"Bloom pants, hopak, kravchuchka"

It is easy to see that the formats of assistance are changing more in those countries where there are not so many refugees. In Poland, where there are the most Ukrainians, the registration system is changing, that is, citizens of Ukraine need to choose between refugee status and obtaining a residence permit under an employment contract. In Germany, the second largest country in terms of the number of refugees taken in from Ukraine, everything in general remains the same. Headlines like “Europe stops helping Ukrainians” come exclusively from the numerous fantasy media in Russia. The main problem for Ukrainians in Europe is not benefits at all, but finding a job that matches their qualifications. If a person was engaged in physical labor, then it will be easy for them to get a job in their specialty in Europe, only with a higher salary. But a lawyer laying bricks at a Warsaw construction site (I personally know one like that - ed. note) - this is probably still wrong.

“I am constantly studying this issue with colleagues from different organizations and I can single out the main problem: they don’t see us here as a resource,” says Marina Kuraptseva. We are wild people for Europeans, although the Germans look at our "Diya" (Ukrainian portal of public services - ed.) and say: well, wow! I explain to them that the last time I saw a paper letter was 20 years ago, but for some reason I seem to be underdeveloped.

In many European countries, there is a shortage of personnel. And if a person is ready to learn a language and help a new country, enrich its culture, why are they not employed in accordance with their qualifications?

In Germany, there are not enough teachers in the integration Ukrainian classes, but Ukrainians are not hired there. Recognizing a Ukrainian diploma here is a more difficult task than flying into space. Therefore, the problem is not in benefits, but in job prospects.

I do not see competition in the skilled labour market, but it is very difficult to explain to Germans that Ukrainians are educated people. They answer me with some clichés from the nineties: they say, Ukraine is harem pants, fat, hopak, kravchuchka (“kravchuchka” is the colloquial name for a trolley bag - ed.). In Europe, after all, there is every opportunity to heal spiritual wounds and start earning good money by honest work until we can return and rebuild our homes. Let's be realistic: we see how Russian aggression is progressing, and it is foolish to hope for an end to the war in the near future - these bastards will not let go of us.

Source: Novaya Gazeta

Fotos: EPA

Who needs you there: stories of families with children and adults with cystic fibrosis who have left Russia. They received treatment 'abroad' that they could not get in their own country

Who needs you there: stories of families with children and adults with cystic fibrosis who have left Russia. They received treatment 'abroad' that they could not get in their own country


"Parting with loved ones was unbearable". The journey of a Ukrainian teacher from Dnipro to Nuremberg