Washington, D.C. — As the United States and the European Union formulate military and diplomatic responses to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they should also focus on how to protect the growing number of people who are being forcibly displaced because of the conflict, a new column released today by the Center for American Progress underscores.
Since the invasion began, more than 500,000 people have fled Ukraine into Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania. That figure will undoubtedly continue to rise, since the number of people in Ukraine who are vulnerable to displacement ranges widely—from 1 million to 5 million—and could be the largest forcible displacement in Europe in the 21st century.
The robust and determined initial response from the European Union and the United States to address this new migration crisis must be sustained and expanded in the months ahead. EU leaders discussed the possibility of using the Temporary Protection Directive (TPD) to grant one-year to three-year residence permits, the right to work, and access to social, financial, and medical assistance to Ukrainian refugees. The European Union has already allocated 90 million euros in humanitarian aid to cover the basic needs of the internally displaced in Ukraine as well as refugees who have fled to Moldova.
Ukrainians are eligible for visa-free travel to the Schengen Area—which comprises a majority of EU member states. However, immigrants from African countries, many of whom are students at Ukrainian universities, are also fleeing for their lives. There are disturbing reports that they are facing discrimination and racism at the borders, so it is critically important—from both a humanitarian perspective and to preserve the norms of refugee protection—that all those fleeing the Russian aggression in Ukraine have equal access to protection.
The United States should also provide critical support, increasing the annual refugee cap and processing these individuals’ applications more quickly. The Biden administration is authorized by statute to designate a country for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) when there is a temporary emergency, such as an armed conflict. Ukraine clearly qualifies for such a designation, which CAP estimates could protect as many as 96,000 non-U.S. citizen Ukrainians—including an estimated 27,000 undocumented Ukrainians—living in the United States, and there is bipartisan support in Congress for doing so.
“People forcibly displaced from Ukraine face many challenges common to all refugees,” said Nicole Prchal Svajlenka, associate director for research on the Immigration Policy team at CAP and co-author of the column. “This is the time to apply all international law to ensure those fleeing this armed conflict are protected from prosecution and violence, regardless of their race or country of origin. While the EU states consider immediate measures on receiving refugees, the United States should protect all Ukrainians living in the country under TPS.”
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have widespread global implications,” said Joel Martinez, senior policy analyst for National Security and International Policy at CAP and co-author of the column.“We urge the United States and the European Union to do all they can to mitigate this crisis and share the responsibility of assisting all people fleeing Ukraine.”
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