Olga in Paris – Why are there so few Ukrainian refugees in France?

14 February 2023
Save Ukraine. Photo: Facebook / Accueil des réfugiés ukrainiens / прийом українських біженців (FRANCE)
Save Ukraine. Photo: Facebook / Accueil des réfugiés ukrainiens / прийом українських біженців (FRANCE)

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Following Russia’s brutal invasion in February 2022, millions of Ukrainian refugees left their country. By the end of December 2022, 4.9 million of them had applied for protection in the European Union and in other European democracies.

On 4 March 2022, the EU ministers of interior activated the so-called Temporary Protection Directive, declaring that “the existence of a mass influx into the Union of displaced persons who have had to leave Ukraine as a consequence of an armed conflict is hereby established.” As a result, Ukrainian citizens and their family members could apply to be granted temporary protection without an asylum procedure. EU-member states committed themselves to offer them residency rights, access to the labour market, access to housing, social welfare assistance, medical or other assistance, and “means of subsistence.”

This was a quick response to the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the 1940s. EU Member States adopted national legislation to grant temporary protection. Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, though not bound by the EU temporary protection framework, introduced similar provisions.

Temporary protection was granted for an initial period of one year. On 10 October 2022, Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, announced after a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council that “the Temporary Protection Directive will continue to be in place at least until March 2024.”

Since early March 2022, almost 5 million Ukrainian refugees applied for temporary protection. Czechia and Poland received the highest number per capita: more than 4 percent of their population. Another six countries received applications amounting to 2 or more percent.

These eight countries accounted for 2.5 million of all applications. These are remarkable numbers: more Ukrainians applied for protection in the Czech Republic (11 million inhabitants) than in France, Italy and Spain combined (174 million inhabitants).

1.2 million applications were submitted in four countries: Ireland, Germany, Luxembourg, and Austria. These four received applications equivalent to 1 to 2 percent of their population.

More Ukrainians applied for protection in Bulgaria (with a population of 7 million) than in France (population 68 million).

What explains this uneven distribution of temporary protection applications?