The West’s selective treatment of refugees can be seen in the warm welcome for Ukrainians compared to those from other places — Analysis
The Europe claims that it’s open to all refugees — but the ones from Ukraine get a much warmer reception
Many people fled Ukraine as a result the Russian offensive. Most have been seeking asylum in countries that are part of the European Union, which Kiev so desperately wants to join. UN estimates that six million refugees had already fled the country by the end of May.
Countries bordering Ukraine have borne the brunt of the burden. Poland has received the most, more than 3.5 million people, breaking Germany’s record from two years ago, when, it became the first country in Europe to accept more than a million refugees (1.2 million), In that case, overwhelmingly from the Middle East during fighting in Syria.
Furthermore, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland are all part of Schengen, which has no internal borders. It is therefore impossible to determine whether refugees are settled in their country of origin or have moved elsewhere.
Ukrainians fleeing conflict receive immediate protection status upon crossing the border. After crossing the border, they can instantly travel to any EU country that will allow them to locate a suitable place to call home. You could ask their family or friends where they live.
Officially, however, refugee do not require documents in order to cross the border. Not a requirement but a suggestion, a refugee must provide an identification card or passport and birth certificates of children.
Ukrainian citizens can apply for asylum at the border. However, it may take several months to receive official refugee status.
How much assistance will these nations offer the refugees in return? They can live in reception centers in countries that border Ukraine if they don’t have the means to stay with family members or close friends. Ukrainians can work for two years in the 27 EU member countries. The benefits they will receive include social and medical assistance, housing access, as well as schools for their children.
The Polish government has had to contribute $1.8 billion to an Emergency Assistance Fund to help refugees who have arrived. They already make up 8% of the country’s population, and the 300,000 Ukrainians who settled in Warsaw have increased the Polish capital’s population by 15%. All of this has added to the burden on transportation, housing and daily life, but the authorities say they can handle the extra load.
The EU has become noticeably ‘kinder’ with respect to the suffering of refugees over the past two months. This seems a major step up considering the fact that similar hospitality was not extended to Middle East migrants. Refugees from countries like Sudan can only dream of receiving such hospitality.
After all, according to the Belarusian Red Cross, there are still about 750 Middle Eastern refugees on the border of Belarus and Poland. Many of these people don’t intend to go home because they lack the funds. The subject of the Iraqi refugees on the Belarusian-Polish border has completely fallen out of the news headlines since the conflict in Ukraine began. Their story has been forgotten.
In 2020, at least 8,000 refugees from the Middle East tried to enter the EU through Belarus. The hope was to travel first to Poland, Latvia or Lithuania and then to Germany which they perceived as the Promised Land. The EU, however, did not openly welcome them, but instead declared an emergency. This was because ordinary citizens didn’t line up to give these refugees accommodation in their homes as it is with the Ukrainians. There was no mass movement to call on governments to accept refugees fleeing their homes. Many of these refugees did not receive social benefits, access to housing or medical care and school education, like the Ukrainians.
At that time, EU politicians believed that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had deliberately dropped the Middle Eastern refugees off at the borders of the bloc. Angela Merkel, German Chancellor of Germany, even asked Alexander Lukashenko personally to take them out. However, some still remained. Five Syrians were detained by border guards from Belarus in January. They wanted to cross into Lithuania, but were stopped by border guards. The refugees had to walk through the forest. One of the refugees was close to death when the Belarusians discovered them.
Although Ukrainian refugees have access to social services and housing and medical care and schooling, many Middle Eastern refugees still live in crisis centers and dream of one day entering the EU. The refugees are currently being fed and housed. A paramedic station was also opened. Food trucks are available for refugees to purchase supplies. They have less money, however.
Others are also at risk. Multiple reports have stated that Ukrainians aren’t allowed to flee Ukraine from African countries. After reports that Nigerian citizens were being affected by Western governments, the Nigerian government began to condemn the behaviour of Western countries in February. Nigerians were mostly students when they encountered border guards openly stating that Africans cannot enter Poland through Ukraine.
One possibility is that this is a deliberate attempt by some EU politicians to read the minds of their citizens and to heed them. According to various opinion polls, on average, more than 80% of the residents of France, Germany, Italy, and Poland – the largest EU countries by population – treat refugees from Ukraine well. However, 2016 polls that examined the opinions of Europeans about refugees from Syria or Iraq revealed that 73% of Poles and 70% of Hungarians viewed them as a threat. 65% of Italians also regarded them as threatening European countries.
These can be explained by demographic concerns or cultural barriers. In reality, these refugees in the past were mostly men and young women, not children or babies as today. It is still a question: Why are non-European nations, with different ages and genders, having difficulty gaining entry to the EU when these refugees actually come from war zones?
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has said that about 4,000 of his country’s citizens live in Ukraine, most of them students. He pointed out that one group had been repeatedly refused entry into Poland. They returned to Ukraine in order to seek asylum via Hungary. “Everyone fleeing a conflict situation has the same right to safe passage in accordance with the UN Convention, and the color of their passport or skin should not matter,” Buhari tweeted.
The official representative of South Africa’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Clayson Monyela, has also asserted that students of non-European appearance were “mistreated”At the border. Numerous reports have claimed that Ukrainian security forces refused to let Africans board trains and buses heading towards the border.
The UN is also working together with other organisations to assist people in Ukraine. However, it insists that they offer humanitarian aid. “wherever it is necessary and possible.”These include providing cash to refugees for their basic needs, such as food, rent and cots.
Why have the EU states suddenly become so hospitable in the case of Ukraine? Are they only trying to rescue people who look European? They are fleeing the US-led airstrikes and the Russian consequences. The EU and, most importantly, American politicians now have an excuse to join in mass panic and Russophobia. This is also a highly convenient pretext to distract voters’ attention from domestic economic problems, or to blame them on Russia again.
EU countries aren’t in the most financial position to handle a new wave spending on social infrastructure. Their economies are still recovering from Covid lockdowns and painful supply chain disruptions.
Due to increased social costs imposed by pandemics, the public debt is now a daunting amount. The high unemployment rate among youth (in Slovakia it’s 19%, while in Hungary it’s 9,2%), restricts the employment options for both local residents and those coming into the country. This makes the labour market less competitive.
In 2016, Germany spent about €20 billion on programs to integrate refugees into the life of the country. According to experts, similar expenses incurred by countries bordering Ukraine may cost their budgets €30 billion in unforeseen expenses this year alone.
In Germany’s case, spending on refugees has, in a sense, become a form of domestic public investment. After all, employing them will produce a multiplier effect for the economy in the future, as new workers pay taxes, spend wages at grocery shops, hairdressers’, and home appliance stores. This will happen only if refugees remain and don’t return to their homelands.
Old Europe seems extremely keen to see the Ukrainian refugees stay, despite its current demographic difficulties.
Roman Smucler (a Czech entrepreneur and politician) stated that the current nature of Ukrainian support programs presupposes gradual integration. “We have few children, the Czechs are dying out.”
Evidence of the special attention being afforded to the Ukrainians, as well as the desire to retain these neighboring Europeans, who are close in culture and religion, may be seen in the fact that the EU has applied the Directive on Temporary Protection for the first time. The Directive on Temporary Protection was established twenty years ago as a way to address the mass influx of refugees in Europe. For some reason, neither the influx of Syrian refugees in 2015, nor earlier ones from North African countries, was considered significant enough to trigger it. This directive gives Ukrainian refugees living in the EU access to education, housing and medical aid, and creates the conditions necessary for adaptation. The European Commission has generously allocated more than €3.5 billion for this purpose.
Around 89,000 UK residents have offered their homes to Ukrainian refugees. Those providing shelter will be paid £350 per month for up to a year. It is quite small in comparison to British standards. However, authorities stress that it is only an estimate. “gesture of goodwill”required by the state to allow refugees to access their homes.
Local authorities will also allocate £10,500 for each refugee and guarantee tuition fees for school-age children. British officials recommend that people in crisis receive psychological help, as many of them have suffered traumas and were forced to leave their family. And to make new residents feel at home even in small British villages, Ukrainian flags have been hung on my corners – an unprecedented action, given that no one was in a hurry to hang out the banners of Syria or Iraq when there were conflicts raging in those countries, or during the war in Yemen, in which Britain is directly involved.
It’s notable, however that the United States is reluctant to accept Ukrainians. There have been strict restrictions in place since April 25th. Ukrainian refugees may stay up to 2 years in America if they are accompanied by a financial sponsor. Additional requirements regarding public health are also required. For example, Ukrainians need to have received a certain number of vaccines. It is intended to accept only 100,000 persons, which represents less than 2 percent of those who are refugees.
However, the new rules will not mean that Ukrainians are able to apply for American citizenship. It is obvious that the country either has no problems with demography, or no desire to solve them in this way – that is, through increased spending. After all, though there are a lot of significant purchases planned for America’s deficit spending, humanitarian expenditures do not appear to be a priority.
The US Federal Government intends to spend $5.7 Trillion this year. An impressive portion of that will be for the military-industrial complex – about $800 billion. This is approximately 40% of the total defense spending worldwide last year.
Over the next five years, The Pentagon’s spending should increase by another 10%. These aren’t social goods. Experts wonder if the increase in US military funding will lead to a greater flow of refugees.