Why did the EU grant PDT to Ukrainian refugees?
Offering Ukrainian refugees temporary EU-wide protection is just the latest result of the bloc’s talks on more unified migration policies. Over the past 20 years, the EU has repeatedly used crises to expand its powers to manage migration, adding new migration agencies, joint operations with individual countries and regional funding.
But despite efforts to create fairer asylum systems, decisions about who receives protection in the EU largely depend on race, geopolitics and a country’s ability to host refugees.
Directive on temporary protection
In 2001, the Council of the EU adopted the Temporary Protection Directive as part of the bloc’s efforts to build a unified approach to asylum. The EU can activate the TPD if there is a “mass influx” of displaced people. The program is designed to remove pressure on a few national asylum systems close to the external borders by spreading migrants across all EU members.
PDT is not a legal status and is not equivalent to asylum, refugee status or subsidiary protection. Rather, it is a general decision that allows Ukrainians to apply for a temporary residence permit in any EU country. These governments are now required to roll out temporary housing, aid and access to education and work. Because TPD is group-based, non-Ukrainians who need help – such as African or Indian students, or Belarusians and Russians who lived in Ukraine – are not eligible unless they can prove that they were legal residents in Ukraine.
Europe’s double standards
Europe is no stranger to migration crises. Last August, thousands of asylum seekers attempted to enter the EU from Belarus, only to be turned away by Polish border guards. Unlike today, the EU has helped Poland, Latvia and Lithuania to detain these asylum seekers and limit their rights.
And during the “long migration summer” of 2015, as some called it, the EU never activated TPD. Instead, the bloc has created a quota system to relocate some 160,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to all of its member countries. This system collapsed when Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic refused to accept Muslim refugees.
Why has the EU finally activated TPD now?
The second reason is geopolitical: the same EU members (Poland, Hungary and Slovakia) that blocked the TPD in 2015 need help today.
The EU’s Dublin system requires asylum seekers to apply in the first EU country they enter, which, if maintained as in 2015, would mean Poland, Hungary and Slovakia would be responsible for the 3 million Ukrainian asylum applications and for providing them with accommodation. , education and assistance. These countries opposed unified EU migration policies when they weren’t directly affected, but backfired when Ukrainians started arriving at their stations.
The third reason is the capacity of the state, or the ability of governments to implement migration policies. The European Commission and the Council take capacity into account – such as the number of border guards, asylum officers, doctors, beds in reception centers – when deciding how to respond migration crises. They also consider whether it can trust its members to carry out EU policies as intended.
The EU could learn many lessons from its 2015 experience. For example, while the EU’s quota system was designed to distribute the burden among its members, national governments imposed too much red tape to put it off. implemented in practice. When formal regimes are too burdensome, people move through their own social networks. Currently, many Ukrainians stay with family and friends in EU countries with a large Ukrainian diaspora.
While much of Europe welcomes Ukrainians, experience suggests that this will not last. In 2015, a first surge of goodwill, donations and volunteers met with a backlash. Some governments have restricted civil society groups and stopped volunteers helping refugees; politicians who welcomed the refugees lost popularity in subsequent elections.
The EU took advantage of the 2015 crisis to extend its governance of migration policies. For example, he increased Frontex’s budget and staff, renamed the agency European Border and Coast Guard and granted the EBCG increased powers to organize joint deportations with EU members. The EU also created what it called “hotspots” where its agencies took on new roles in screening and interviewing new arrivals on the Greek islands.
The EU could use the Ukrainian crisis as an opportunity to further Europeanize migration policies. The TPD, necessary for the immediate crisis, will encourage EU migration agencies to be more active. The crisis will also give new impetus to the proposed new pact on migration and asylum.
The Ukraine crisis shows that the EU can and does cooperate on migration when it wants – however, this is shaped by domestic politics.