Brussels – The EU interior ministers, including Slovenia’s Aleš Hojs, agreed in Brussels on Thursday to trigger for the first time ever the legislation providing Ukrainian refugees with immediate temporary protection. Hojs noted that a compromise solution had been adopted that allowed each member state to take care of the refugees their own way.
The mechanism of immediate temporary protection includes residence permits and access to work, housing, education, social security and healthcare. It is expected to take effect in the coming days.
Hojs said that the EU interior ministers had made an unanimous decision to activate the relevant directive, and noted that a compromise proposal had been adopted.
“Visegrad countries do not oppose the compromise proposal,” said Hojs.
He said the compromise proposal stated clearly who would be eligible for temporary protection, including all the rights; these would be Ukrainian citizens, those who have already had refugee status in Ukraine and those who have resided in Ukraine on the basis of a work permit.
He said the European Commission’s proposal was not as clear. The compromise now clearly states that temporary protection applies to Ukrainians as well as to those non-Ukrainian citizens who had been granted protection or a residence permit in Ukraine before 24 February this year.
Each EU member state can take care of Ukrainian refugees in its own way, but it is not permitted to reduce the level of protection as provided by the EU legislation, he said.
Apart from the Visegrad countries, Hojs said Slovenia, Austria and some other countries too were bothered by the lack of clarity over who was to be eligible for temporary protection, but now the proposal was acceptable for all.
The member states are expected to adopt the measure within days.
Hojs said some 90 Ukrainians had expressed intention to ask for international protection in Slovenia in the first two days of March. There have been 2,500 applications for residence since the beginning of the year, of which some 600 in the first two days of March.
Most of the Ukrainians who enter Slovenia want to head on to their relatives or acquaintances, mainly to Italy and some also to Spain and France, he said.
The ministers did not discuss relocation of refugees between EU member states yet, but Hojs said that on agreeing on temporary protection, they adopted a political statement to allow a derogation from the Dublin system, under which the member state where the applicant first entered the EU is responsible for examining the asylum application.
The legislation was not being changed but it was agreed that if someone came to Poland and applied for asylum there but is then relocated to Germany there would not be a demand for their return.
The directive on temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons was adopted in 2001 in response to the large number of refugees as a result of the war in the former Yugoslavia, but has never been used.
It stipulates action of EU member states in such an event and guarantees refugees from a crisis area the right to immediate universal temporary protection in a member state without the need for an asylum application to be approved.