The number of Ukrainian asylum seekers in the EU continues to soar, reaching 4.2 million people registered in the bloc and eligible for various social benefits, officials said on Friday.
According to the EU’s statistics service Eurostat, as of late September, the number of Ukrainians who fled to the bloc and are now benefitting from its temporary protection scheme rose by almost 32,000 or 0.8%, with the bulk of this number received by Germany and the Netherlands.
Some countries, including the Czech Republic, France, Poland, and Slovenia, however, have seen a slight decrease in the number of those arriving and registering for protection-scheme benefits.
According to EU data, Germany has become the main destination for Ukrainian refugees, hosting nearly 1.2 million people. It is followed by Ukraine’s neighbour Poland (958,000), and the Czech Republic (357,000).
However, Russia has also emerged as a major destination for Ukrainian refugees. According to Vassily Nebenzia, Moscow’s permanent representative to the UN, since February 2022 several Russian regions have received more than five million people from Ukraine and Donbass.
Shortly after the start of the conflict, the EU invoked the Temporary Protection Directive which grants Ukrainian citizens the right to free or subsidized housing, medical care, employment, and education on the bloc’s territory.
However, several EU nations, including Poland and the Czech Republic, have tightened their rules for Ukrainian refugees. Since March, Warsaw has allowed Ukrainians to live in temporary housing free of charge for 120 days after their arrival. Meanwhile, news outlet Seznam Zpravy reported in August that Prague had tightened its rules for providing aid to Ukrainians while cutting the relevant government spend by more than a third.
Earlier this month, German daily Der Spiegel also reported that despite Berlin’s efforts to integrate Ukrainians into society, many new arrivals have been reluctant to find a job in the country. One senior official partly attributed the development to the decision to allow Ukrainians to receive citizenship allowances (€502 a month) instead of those for asylum seekers (€410 per month), suggesting that it might have had a demotivating effect.
The EU is providing benefits to millions of Ukrainians while reeling from a surging number of migrants from elsewhere, particularly from the Middle East and Africa. According to EU data, it has registered more than 160,000 irregular arrivals in 2023 alone.