BRUSSELS, (AFP) – The European Union (EU) early yesterday agreed to approve temporary protection for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine – so far numbered at one million.
The moves by the EU came in parallel to its sanctions on Russia imposed in successive waves over the course of the invasion, now in its eighth day.
In Washington, the administration of United States (US) President Joe Biden announced a similar move, granting temporary protected status to Ukrainians already in the country. That means they can remain in the US and the threat of deportation is lifted.
EU interior ministers agreed in a Brussels meeting to activate a temporary protection mechanism drawn up two decades ago but never used.
European home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, who attended the meeting, tweeted that it was a “historic decision”.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said: “The European Union will accord temporary protection to all those fleeing the war in Ukraine.”
Both later told a media conference that the decision was unanimously taken by the ministers representing the EU’s 27 nations. Darmanin said the temporary protection would apply to Ukrainians and their family members crossing into the EU, as well as anyone who had prior refugee status in Ukraine.
With political agreement reached, it was expected to come into force within days, once the EU legislation is finalised.
The protection allows refugees from Ukraine and their family members to receive a residence permit and the right to access work and education for an initial year, renewable every six months for a total of two years. Currently, Ukrainians with passports bearing biometric data have only the right to visit the EU’s Schengen area for up to three months, without the right to work, meaning they can already enter the EU.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said, as she arrived for the meeting, that adopting the blanket protection for Ukraine refugees was “a paradigm shift” for the EU, which has long struggled to reform its asylum rules.