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Ukrainians struggling to exchange national currency in EU countries

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By Aida Sanchez Alonso
Ukrainian hryvnia banknotes are seen in a photo illustration shot in Kyiv, Ukraine
Ukrainian hryvnia banknotes are seen in a photo illustration shot in Kyiv, Ukraine   -   Copyright  Credit: Reuters   -  

People fleeing the war in Ukraine are reported to be finding it difficult to convert their Ukrainian money into the currency of the EU countries they have made their new home.

Mbogné Saah Jules Bokade is just one of the many refugees who is finding that nowhere will accept his hryvnia - Ukraine's national currency.

"In Belgium, we can't find banks that accept Ukrainian money. I have been to lots of banks and I have not found a solution," Bokade told Euronews.

Many banks don't want to exchange the notes, as they have limited convertibility due to the war.

Bokade arrived in Belgium from Ukraine some weeks ago with all his money in cash: a total of 40,300 hryvnias, around €1,300.

"This money in Ukraine is a year's worth. In Ukraine, things are different and the salaries are really low," Bokade said.

But the EU is now trying to resolve the difficulties. 

The European Commission has proposed a recommendation on the conversion of hryvnia banknotes into the currency of host member states.

The scheme will allow the exchange of the equivalent of €300 for a period of three months, a quantity that critics say is not enough.

“This approach was necessary in light of the fact that the National Bank of Ukraine had to suspend the exchange of hryvnia banknotes into foreign cash in order to protect Ukraine’s limited foreign exchange reserves,” the commission said.

“As a consequence, credit institutions in EU Member States have been unwilling to carry out the exchanges due to the limited convertibility of hryvnia banknotes and exposure to exchange rate risk.”

Austria, Hungary and Poland already have a similar scheme to the EU proposal. 

According to the United Nations' refugee agency, more than 4 million Ukrainians have now fled the country.