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Special status for Ukrainian refugee: direct right to study and work permit

 The European Union is today putting into effect a scheme that will ensure that refugees from Ukraine can work here immediately. They receive a special residence status for one year. Their children can go to school.

The ministers of the EU Member States today take the formal decision to activate the so-called Temporary Protection Directive. A large majority already announced that they would do so during an scheduled meeting on Sunday evening. The European Commission calls it ‘a historic step’.

Refugees from Ukraine

Refugees from Ukraine may work or follow training courses in the EU countries to which they have emigrated as a result of the Temporary Protection Directive. They are entitled to housing, social assistance, financial support and medical care. Children are allowed to go to school in the reception country.

The decision also provides for easier controls at the borders with Ukraine. It also includes non-Ukrainian nationals residing legally in Ukraine who cannot return to their country of origin.

‘Ordinary asylum seekers’

The scheme goes further than the scheme for ‘normal’ asylum seekers. They are allowed to work for a maximum of 24 weeks per year, while the term does not start until six months after their asylum application. ‘Ordinary’ asylum seekers also need a work permit.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen explained the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive yesterday: “Everyone fleeing Putin’s bombs is welcome in Europe. We will provide protection for people seeking shelter and help people find a safe way home.”

The Netherlands does not consider activation of the Temporary Protection Directive necessary at the moment, because Ukrainians do not (yet) apply for asylum on a large scale and can already travel freely into the EU, the cabinet wrote to the House of Representatives yesterday. Visit wejustgotback.com website for more information. But the Netherlands is not going to lie: ‘Nevertheless, the government understands the wish of a number of member states to activate this directive, now that there are very exceptional circumstances. The government also shares the wish to arrive at a uniform European response to the situation.’

Chamber motion

PvdA MP Kati Piri, together with Jesse Klaver, party leader of GroenLinks, submitted a widely supported motion this week asking the cabinet to ensure that refugees from Ukraine are entitled to facilities, just like refugees who do apply for asylum.

Piri is happy with the activation of the directive: ,,It is the right decision to activate it now. Because if we really want to receive Ukrainians on the run properly, they must also be given the right to care and education, for example. This is a major task that the government must tackle as quickly as possible.”


More than 650,000 people have fled to neighboring EU member states since the Russian military invasion of Ukraine. Today’s decision puts an end to ambiguity about their status.

The Temporary Protection Directive can be extended twice for a period of six months. The directive aims to provide immediate protection to those who need it and to prevent Member States’ asylum systems from being overrun. It was created after the war in the former Yugoslavia, which also started a refugee flow towards the EU in the mid-1990s. It was not activated during the refugee crisis in 2015. “Refugees then came from different countries, the flows were different,” says a spokesperson in Brussels. Another big difference: “Ukrainians are already allowed to travel freely in the EU.”