Column, 30 mei 2022

Inexplicable | Column Sander Laban

Over six million Ukrainian refugees have fled their country after three months of war. An unprecedented number, prompting the EU to quickly deploy special protection for Ukrainian refugees. This also makes the dire situation for refugees from other countries in the Netherlands more visible, says Sander Laban of the Dutch Council for Refugees in his column.

Outpour of solidarity

Once again, a war bringing out great solidarity of  Dutch people towards refugees. In recent months, thousands of people have opened up their homes to refugees and support initiatives have sprung up like mushrooms. The Dutch Council for Refugees has been working tirelessly, to make sure a team was ready in every hotel, boat or event hall where Ukrainians are being received.

We also saw this enormous solidarity in our society in 2015, when thousands of Syrian and Eritrean refugees sought protection in Europe and our country in a short period of time. The big difference now is the so-called 'temporary protection scheme' that the EU has deployed – for the first time ever. The scheme had been on the shelf for some time, for emergency situations. Whereas refugees from other countries have to apply for individual protection and wait for a lengthy asylum procedure, this scheme gives Ukrainian refugees immediate temporary residence rights that can be extended up to three years.

Six million refugees from Ukraine

In 2015, the EU also considered using this emergency measure, but that was unsuccessful. Due to the huge number of Ukrainians who had to leave their country in a short time – six million people – the EU decided differently.

This and the many different initiatives for Ukrainian refugees stand in sharp contrast with the dire situation for refugees from other countries even more apparent. Ten thousand beds are available for Ukrainians, but refugees from other countries sleep on the floor in overcrowded asylum centers and risk ending up on the streets. It is inexplicable, and unacceptable. The emergency law that now obliges municipalities to receive Ukrainian refugees should also apply to refugees from other countries.

A breakthrough and structural solution is needed, and needed fast, to solve this national reception crisis. It shouldn't matter which war you are fleeing from.

Sander Laban is advocacy coordinator at the Dutch Council for Refugees

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