EU/Ukraine: Temporary Protection Directive should provide effective protection for all fleeing the hostilities in Ukraine

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) warmly welcomes the decision of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the EU, on 3 March, to approve the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive.

This enables EU states to offer quick and effective assistance to people fleeing the devastating military hostilities arising from the Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

“The activation of the Temporary Protection Directive in respect of Ukraine is welcome and necessary, as more than a million people have already been displaced, and many more continue to be driven from the country. This should now become the model for dealing with future mass displacements of people, such as we have also seen in Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere,” said Róisín Pillay, ICJ Europe and Central Asia Director.  “We urge EU Member States to do all in their power to ensure the safety and protection of both all people, irrespective of nationality,  fleeing the aggression  in Ukraine, without discrimination.”

Following the activation of the Directive, Ukrainian nationals and residents will be granted temporary protection in the EU, meaning that they will be provided immediate protection and entitlements, including residency rights, access to the labour market, access to housing, social welfare assistance, medical or other assistance, and means of subsistence. For unaccompanied younger children and adolescents, temporary protection confers the right to legal guardianship and access to education.

As agreed by the Council of the EU, the scope of this decision extends to Ukrainian nationals residing in Ukraine prior to 24 February 2022, to beneficiaries of international protection and their family members and third-country nationals, whom the Member States should provide adequate protection if they cannot return in safe and durable conditions to their country or region of origin.

Concerns have been raised by the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism at the particular difficulties faced by non-national and especially non-European residents of Ukraine in fleeing the conflict, and at reports of discrimination on grounds of race, ethnicity and nationality,  at borders and in transport out of Ukraine.

Background information:

This is the first time that the EU has activated the Temporary Protection Directive from 2001 (Temporary Protection Directive 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001) aimed as special measure to be activated “in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons from third countries who are unable to return to their country of origin.“ (Article 1)

Once adopted, temporary protection should apply immediately, and will last for one year. This period is to be extended automatically by six monthly periods for a further year.

It will also allow crossings at temporary border crossing points, outside official border crossing points. Furthermore, Ukrainian nationals, as visa-free travellers, have the right to move freely within the Union after being admitted into the territory for a 90-day period. On this basis, they are able to choose the Member State in which they want to enjoy the rights attached to temporary protection and to join their family and friends across the significant diaspora networks that currently exist across the Union.

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