Almost eight million Ukrainians seeking protection have been registered in Europe since the Russian attack on Ukraine on February 24. The European Union has opened its borders and is granting them temporary protection. Most of the war refugees, a good 1.4 million, have found refuge in Poland.

In Germany, a total of 1,019,789 people who entered Germany in connection with the war in Ukraine were recorded in the Central Register of Foreigners (AZR) as of November 1st.

Refugee organizations complain that European countries treat people from Ukraine and refugees from other crisis regions in two classes – and warn of conflicts.

Claim: Refugees from Ukraine have priority.

“At the refugee summit, Faeser missed the opportunity for a change in refugee policy. The two-class policy and the racism behind it harms Germany,” posted Green MEP Kassem Taher Saleh.

DW fact check: Correct.

In order to provide people from Ukraine with unbureaucratic protection, the EU opened its borders on March 4 of this year. Refugees from Ukraine can enter the EU without a visa and do not need to apply for asylum because, according to the so-called implementing decision of the EU Council, they enjoy temporary protection in the EU.

War refugees from Ukraine who enter Germany by November 30, 2022 also do not need a visa for the first 90 days. After the period has expired, they must apply for a residence permit from the immigration authorities. According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, the regulation is limited to February 28, 2023.

Depending on the country, refugees from Ukraine have different entitlements to social benefits. In Germany, refugees from the Ukraine have been integrated into the social welfare system since June 1 and receive a work permit and access to statutory health insurance, Hartz IV benefits, child benefit, student loans and basic security in old age. In addition, entry into Germany by train is free for refugees from the Ukraine. Deutsche Bahn also offers numerous discounts on local transport after you have entered the country.

In contrast to people from Ukraine, refugees from other crisis regions such as Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Iraq continue to receive benefits under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act, which are lower. You only get a residence permit after months or years of procedures. As recognized refugees, they also have access to the social system.

Refugee organizations have criticized this unequal treatment in an open letter to Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil.

In an interview with Deutsche Welle, the Federal Commissioner for Refugees and Integration, Reem Alabali-Radovan, now announces reforms: “The unequal treatment of refugees has been on my mind for months. And I’ll say it very clearly: We agreed in the coalition agreement before the Ukraine war that we want to bring about improvements for many refugees, and they have to come quickly so that this situation changes.”

Claim: Non-Ukrainian refugees from Ukraine are discriminated against.

“Nigerian activist Chizoba has helped hundreds of black refugees from Ukraine in Poland. In my interviews, they describe racism to me as an everyday problem,” writes US reporter Terrell Jermaine Starr, who reports from Ukraine, on Twitter.

DW fact check: Not verifiable.

Non-white refugees also reported to the BCC media about discrimination, especially in the early stages of the war. The human rights organization Amnesty International observed the situation on site in March and found: refugees from Ukraine without Ukrainian passports, especially people of colour , face discrimination both in Ukraine and in the receiving countries.

It spoke to 27 refugees with international histories, many of whom reported “discriminatory treatment when boarding trains or buses and at border checkpoints,” some even “physical and verbal abuse by Ukrainian forces and volunteers.” Students from Pakistan, the Middle East or Africa have repeatedly been prevented from boarding trains in Ukraine in order to leave the country.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has also investigated the allegations and comes to a slightly different conclusion. When asked by DW, press spokesman Chris Melzer explained that the Polish border authorities “didn’t let anyone in, but instead offered everyone protection. To my knowledge, the refugees were given the choice of either leaving Poland within 16 days or making a formal application for asylum”.

It is true that refugees without a Ukrainian passport were detained longer at the border with Poland. However, these were exclusively people who did not have any papers with them and where it was difficult to verify their identity.

According to the Federal Office for Migration (BAMF), non-Ukrainian refugees from Ukraine are treated like Ukrainian refugees in Germany if they were either recognized as refugees there before February 24 or had a permanent residence permit and cannot return to their country of origin.

According to the media service Integration, this currently affects around 34,000 war refugees, of whom 14,400 have already received temporary protection under the EU Mass Influx Directive.

However, those who only had a temporary residence permit in Ukraine and fled to Germany, which applies to many students, are subject to individual assessments by the relevant immigration authorities, according to information from refugee organizations. A transitional regulation for this group of third-country nationals expired on August 31. After the deadline has expired, those affected can stay legally in Germany for another 90 days and apply for a residence permit.

Overall, the statements of those affected suggest that at least some non-Ukrainian people of color were discriminated against when fleeing. However, there is no evidence of systematic discrimination. However, in Germany for example, they are often treated differently than Ukrainian refugees if they do not meet certain requirements.

Author: Astrid Prange de Oliveira

The Original of this post “Do EU countries favor Ukrainian refugees?” comes from Deutsche Welle.