Ukrainian refugee flows 'maybe not even a crisis' - Commissioner Johansson

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson. Copyright Aurore Martignoni/CCE
By Vincenzo Genovese
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The European Commission activated the Temporary Protection Directive last year after Russia invaded Ukraine.

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The historic flow of refugees coming into Europe after fleeing the war in Ukraine may not even be a crisis, according to the EU Commissioner in charge of migration.

Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, was speaking to Euronews about the Temporary Protection Directive, which was activated for the first time ever within days of Russia launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. It allows Ukrainians escaping Russia's aggression to reside in the bloc until March 2024. 

Its success, Johansson said, means the flow of as many as four million Ukrainian refugees coming into Europe was not necessarily a crisis.

"I think it [Temporary Protection Directive] has proven that it works," she said.

"I mean, just imagine, if you compare 2015, for example, people were fleeing the war in Syria and the EU did not activate the Temporary Protection Directive that existed already then, but it was not activated and that left us also in a situation where we were very much divided on the issue of migration and refugees and asylum, and a lot of asylum systems were really clogged up with a lot of asylum applications. There were long waiting times. 

"Now, of course, there are challenges. I will not deny that, but I think we are dealing with this refugee crisis in a much, much better way. Maybe it is not even a crisis, even though it is the biggest number of refugees since the Second World War.

She added that despite many problems still existing for Ukrainian people in Europe, such as with housing and employment, the Temporary Protection Directive should be considered a success.

"We have a lot of challenges. I mean, we are hosting four million Ukrainian refugees. This is really a huge, huge challenge, of course, for the whole of Europe and especially for those member states that are most affected, like the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, but also Germany," she told Euronews.

"But I think really to have a perspective, if somebody had asked me one year ago before the war broke out, will you be able to manage four million new refugees as well as we have done this, I think very few would have been answered positively, without any hesitation. So, taking into account the huge challenges, I think that the achievements are really great."

Marta Jaroszewicz from the Centre of Migration Research in Warsaw said that Brussels must look at the issue with a longer view.

“Migrants are more or less adapted (to life in Europe), right, but now, there is an issue of their access to labour market, massive problems of apartments," Jaroszewicz told Euronews.

"This is the time that we need to think of a more long-term strategy."

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