Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, thousands of Ukrainians and citizens who were living there are trying to flee towards Europe from the disastrous humanitarian conditions caused by the armed violence.
From the beginning of this situation, a migration crisis was expected, and European countries, with the help of the EU, were already prepared to offer humanitarian aid and welcome refugees.
The European Commission´s President von der Leyen expressed in a statement that the EU “welcomes with open arms those Ukrainians who have to flee from Putin’s bombs” and that the Commission is “mobilising every effort and every euro to support the Eastern Member States to host and take care of these refugees”.
Unlike previous migratory crises, the European member states have shown a rapid and unified political response to welcome Ukrainian refugees. Poland has opened its borders to all Ukrainians with a lot of facilities to reduce formalities to a minimum due to the urgency of the situation and the rest of the European countries are prepared to receive them without any number restriction.
The European Commission declared the possibility to activate a never-used and potential asylum law that could help millions of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion to find shelter across the European Union.
This mechanism is the Council Directive 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001 on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting a balance of efforts between the Member States in receiving such persons and bearing the consequences thereof, commonly known as the Temporary Protection Directive.
This is a never-used directive that only received the green light now with the Ukraine crisis, since its publication in 2001. It constitutes an exceptional scheme that grants immediate and temporary protection to displaced people from non-EU countries. It is exceptional because it only applies when there is a clear risk that the standard asylum system will not be able to cope with the demand stemming from a mass influx that risks hurting the processing of applications.
How did this Instrument work? What benefits and facilities gives?
This mechanism conditions the member states to adopt all the necessary measures to provide help and grant visa or residence permits to the displaced persons for the entire duration of the protection.
Among the help and assistance offered, we find evacuation; access to suitable accommodation or, if necessary, receive the means to obtain housing; social welfare; medical care; means of subsistence; employment; education to displaced under 18 years of age under the same conditions as nationals of the host Member State, admission of adults to the general education system, but optionally; representation of unaccompanied minors, etc.
It must be borne in mind that this directive establishes the general aid guidelines, but leaves complete freedom to the Member States to adopt other types of more favourable facilities.
Considering that this protection has a limited duration, the duration of temporary protection is for one year, however, it may be extended automatically by six-monthly periods for a maximum of one year.
Are asylum applications and temporary protection compatible?
People covered by temporary protection can submit an asylum application at any time, nevertheless, Member States may reject the combination of the status of the beneficiary of temporary protection with the status of asylum seeker when the application is still being considered by the competent authority.
Without a doubt, this enormous and incredible humanitarian step that has been taken with the European Commission’s proposal to activate this directive for the first time, is being highly applauded by the international community and has given hope to the Ukrainians fleeing the war, but what it is needed to put this mechanism into practice? Why it has not been activated previously in some similar cases?
It is important the agreement of the Member States with the proposal, but it is even more important, taking into account the lack of clarity of the concept of “mass influx”, to determine if this requirement has a place in this current event or not, since this mechanism has not been activated with the previous refugee crisis.
Moreover, since there is no limit of the numbers of Ukrainians that may be beneficiaries of this Directive, there may be difficulties and dangerous situations in the reception of large groups of displaced persons, since there are some frontline Member States that are already overburdened, so the Temporary Protection Directive may present a further challenge.
Another possible controversy could be that, if it is agreed to activate this directive, only Ukrainians of origin will be beneficiaries of this temporary protection, since the Directive expressly establishes in its Article 1 “country of origin”, but once again, no clear definition is provided for what we should understand by the word “origin”.
We are very happy with the possible application of this protection mechanism for the Ukrainian people who need our help, and we really want it to be the starting point for better solidarity between peoples, but we also want it to be applied without any discrimination.
 Council Directive 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001, OJ L 212, 7.8.2001, p. 12–23.
 Article 17.1 and 19.1 of Council Directive 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001
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