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Will the US give entry to refugees fleeing Ukraine?

According to the United Nations, over 1.37 Ukrainians have fled their country seeking refuge in other European countries. Will the US take in refugees?

Will the US give entry to refugees fleeing Ukraine?

According to the latest figures released by the United Nations this weekend, more than 1.37 Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have fled their country to seek safety in other European countries during the past week with more expected to join them. The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine is expected to rise to 1.5 million by the end of this weekend.

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Demilitarized Humanitarian corridor

Russia agreed to a ceasefire on Saturday morning to allow Ukrainian authorities to set up a humanitarian corridor with the idea of evacuating around 200,000 people from Mariupol and 15,000 from Volnovakha. Some sources however, claim that Russian forces did not cooperate. The situation in Ukraine is getting worse by the day and so far a number of European countries are taking Ukrainian refugees in - principally, most of the countries which share borders with Ukraine - Poland were one of the first nations to offer refuge to Ukrainians fleeing the conflict. At the Polish border, refugees have been greeted by the neighbours offering hot food and drinks, blankets, shelter or even free lifts to other parts of the country. So far, Poland has taken in around 505,582 Ukrainians, according to the UN Refugee Agency - more than any other country.

After Poland, Hungary have granted asylum to 139,686 Ukrainian refugees, Moldova have welcomed 97,827, Slovakia 72,200 and Romania 51,261. Even Russia, the perpetrators of the attack and Belarus, who are complicit, have taken in a share of those seeking safety.

All 27 members of the European Union will take in a quota of Ukrainian nationals under the Temporary Protection Directive which has been triggered for the first time since it was set up in 2001. Temporary protection provides “immediate and temporary protection to displaced persons from non-EU countries and those unable to return to their country of origin”.

The directive offers:

  • a residence permit for the entire duration of the protection (which can last from one year to three years),
  • appropriate information on temporary protection,
  • access to employment,
  • access to accommodation or housing,
  • access to social welfare or means of subsistence,
  • access to medical treatment,
  • access to education for minors,
  • opportunities for families to reunite in certain circumstances, and
  • guarantees for access to the normal asylum procedure.

Further afield, the United Kingdom has relaxed visa rules for Ukrainian nationals who have family members already living in the country and lifted language requirements and salary conditions for those wishing to enter. The UK government have not set any limits on the number of refugees who will be granted permission to enter the UK and those arriving will not be expected to fill in a passenger locator form, which at the moment is compulsory for everyone else.

Canada and the United States offer help to Ukrainian refugees

So what help have Canada and the United States offered? The Canadian government has set up the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program which is open to Ukrainians who want to come to Canada temporarily. There are no limits on the number who can apply. Work permits will be issued to those whose applications are accepted. Canada hopes to have the program up and running by mid-March. Ukrainians who are currently living and working in Canada will be able to extend their stay.

The US has also pledged help, as president Joe Biden confirmed last week. All Ukrainians who arrived in the US on or before 1 March 2022, will be eligible to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which will allow them to legally live and work in the US for the next 18 months. However, this only applies to Ukrainian immigrants who are already in the country.

The US Department of Homeland Security estimates that around 30,000 Ukrainians will apply for TPS - however, the maximum number of European refugees the US can accept in one financial year is capped at 10,000. There have been calls for the US to facilitate the immigration process for Ukrainian refugees, authorize flights to bring displaced Ukrainian nationals in Europe to the States and give them the opportunity to work in the country.

Under the current scheme, refugees are referred to the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). All refugees can work immediately upon arrival to the United States once they are granted entry and complete Form I-94.

Useful contact details:

At the Poland border, Chris Melzer, melzer@unhcr.org; +49 (30) 202 202 10

In Hungary, Zoran Stevanovic stevanoz@unhcr.org; +36 (30) 530 9633

In Geneva, Shabia Mantoo, mantoo@unhcr.org; +41 (79) 337 76 50

In Geneva, Matthew Saltmarsh, saltmars@unhcr.org; +41 (79) 967 99 36

In New York, Kathryn Mahoney, mahoney@unhcr.org, +1 347 443 7646