Europe at a turning point: Oxfam reaction to temporary protection directive proposal

Published: 3rd March 2022

Today, EU migration ministers meet to discuss the Commission’s proposal to activate the temporary protection directive for people fleeing the crisis in Ukraine. If activated, the directive would allow those fleeing from Ukraine, access to a residence permit for up to three years along with access to education and employment in any EU country. 

In just one week, more than a million people have fled Ukraine into Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and surrounding countries. The number is only expected to rise sharply in the following weeks.

Evelien van Roemburg, Oxfam EU Head of Office, said:

“The significance of this moment for Europe cannot be underestimated. The Commission’s proposal offers a direct lifeline to people fleeing from danger in Ukraine. It would also kick-start a solidarity mechanism that asks all EU countries to share the responsibility for hosting them.  

“The European Union has a particularly poor track record on the latter though: since 2015, the EU and its member states have consistently failed to agree on any type of mandatory responsibility-sharing mechanism. 

“It is impossible to expect Ukraine’s immediate neighbors to alone bear the responsibility of hosting over a million people now, let alone the likelihood of so many more to come. All EU member states need to chip in and take responsibility.  

“In the past years, we have seen asylum seekers’ rights being systematically ignored, a crackdown on NGO workers who are giving them aid and support, overcrowded and unsuitable camps, and often violent pushbacks. This is a reality of recent European history that we cannot see repeated. 

“We are therefore at a turning point for Europe. It is not possible to remedy the wrongs from the past, but we can do much better in the future. EU countries must agree with this proposal ―quickly, in full, and implement it immediately. We need real responsibility-sharing across all of Europe, ensuring that people have decent and dignified conditions to live in and can rebuild their lives in safety. It also means keeping borders open to all people fleeing violence, persecution, and conflict regardless of the country they came from.” 

Notes to editors

The EU's current asylum rules state that refugees must apply for asylum in the first EU country they arrive. This system collapsed in 2015 when millions of people fled to Europe seeking safety. 

The Temporary Protection Directive from 2001 has never been triggered so far. It is an exceptional measure to provide immediate and temporary protection to displaced persons, and is applied when the standard asylum system is struggling to cope with a mass influx of people needing protection. The Directive obliges all EU member states to provide minimum protection, including a residency permit for up to 3 years, access to employment, accommodation, social welfare, education, etc. The solidarity mechanism in the Directive is based on a voluntary offer from states and the consent of the person concerned. 

Read our 2021 report: "Tipping the Scales: the role of responsibility and solidarity sharing in the situation on the Greek islands". It details how failed EU policies and the shirking of responsibilities resulted in the abysmal situation in Greece, and how the current proposals replicate these failed policies and allow for the same shirking of responsibility.

Read our reaction to the crisis in Ukraine: “Protection of civilians in Ukraine conflict.

Contact information

Jade Tenwick in Belgium | | +32 473 56 22 60
Paula Andres Richart in Belgium | 

For updates, please follow @NewsFromOxfam and @OxfamEU.   

Please support Oxfam's Coronavirus Response Appeal.