• Germany's news in English

Ukraine refugees make tracks to Germany

Emma Anderson · 26 Mar 2015, 10:09

Published: 26 Mar 2015 10:09 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Saide Abibulaeva feared that her life was in danger last year.

The 62-year-old Ukrainian woman was living in Crimea with diabetes, but could not get access to medical care with pro-Russian troops occupying the area.

"She was very stressed and her blood sugar went high, which is very dangerous," her daughter, Sevil Agcadag, told The Local from her home Stuttgart.

"Our people are in a horrible situation."

Abibulaeva decided to flee the country for Germany, joining her daughter and grandchild, and apply for asylum, but she is expected to wait about 16 months for a decision, her daughter said.

She is just one of thousands of Ukrainians who applied for asylum last year in Germany. The country received the highest number of Ukrainian asylum requests in the European U at 2,705, Eurostat reported - 18 times greater than 2013's 150 applicants.

Of the Ukrainians who applied, Germany accepted 20 in the first instance, but rejected another 45.

Overall, the number of Ukrainian asylum seekers in the 28 EU member states ballooned to 14,040 people in 2014 - more than 13 times higher than the number in 2013 at 1,060 applicants.

That number is even greater when compared to 2008, the beginning of the global economic crisis, when 925 Ukrainians applied for asylum.

“What we have seen from our members working with asylum seekers are those who are fleeing the conflict in the east of Ukraine,” Julia Zelvenska, a senior legal officer at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, told The Local. “In the past, it has been for political persecution, like in 2013, or for sexual orientation.”

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said last month that an estimated one million Ukrainians were displaced internally, with many people moving west. Some 600,000 people had sought asylum, many of them in non-EU countries such as Russia, Belarus and Moldova.

But many Ukrainians also applied for asylum in the European Union in 2014, a year that started with a revolution in Kiev and the ousting of the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Russia then annexed Crimea in March, in a move widely condemned around the world, before propping up separatists fighting bloody battles with Ukrainian forces in the east of the country.

"My mother gets bad news from Ukraine every day. Many people are in jail, she left her husband and her son. She is scared for her family," Agcadag told The Local, tearfully. "But I understand her very well. She cries almost every day."

Of those who applied for asylum in 2014, 650 Ukrainians received positive outcomes on their first application decision in the EU. Eurostat defines positive outcomes as grants of refugee or subsidiary protection status, or an authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons.

Still, those who received good news were greatly outnumbered by those who were rejected in their first try - 2,335.

Zelvenska explained to The Local that it is generally very hard for Ukrainians to gain asylum in EU member states, or to even reach those countries in the first place.

“One of the main reasons people get rejected may be that many countries are not clear on how the situation developed and won’t issue decisions until it is clear how the Ukrainian situation is going to develop,” she said.

“European countries are also being very formalistic in the criteria for asylum,” Zelvenska added. “For example, they may say that there are options for alternative protection already within Ukraine. For people in the east, they may say that they could relocate to the west.”

Zelvenska noted though that reasons for rejection are not made public so it is difficult to know for certain.

“We think it’s not necessary to apply all the criteria in a strict manner,” she said. “They must consider each case, country and the circumstances.”

The number of Ukrainian asylum seekers through the first two months of 2015 has dropped significantly across the EU and applicants to Poland are likely to surpass those to Germany, Zelvenska said. 
Only 125 Ukrainians applied for asylum across Europe in February, according to Zelvenska. Last year, EU countries received the highest number of asylum seekers since 1992 with a total of 626,000 applicants. More than 400,000 people applied in 2013.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Emma Anderson (emma.anderson@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
German police carry out nationwide anti-terror raids
Police outside a building in Jena during raids on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Police forces in five German states carried out raids on Tuesday morning with the aim of tackling the financing of terror groups, police in Thuringia have reported.

The Local List
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Photo: DPA

So you've mastered German, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

Iconic German church being eroded away by human urine
Ulm Minster towering over the rest Ulm surrounding the Danube. Photo: Pixabay

It will now cost you €100 to spend a penny. That’s if you get caught choosing to pee against the world-famous Ulm Minster.

German small arms ammo exports grow ten-fold
Photo: DPA

The government has come in for criticism after new figures revealed that Germany exported ten times the quantity of small arms ammunition in the first half of 2016 as in the same period last year.

14-year-old stabs 'creepy clown' in prank gone wrong
File photo: DPA.

A 16-year-old in Berlin decided he wanted to scare some friends, but his plot backfired in a violent way.

Four Ku Klux Klan groups active in Germany, says govt
An American member of the KKK at a gathering in Georgia. Photo: EPA.

The German government estimates that there are four Ku Klux Klan (KKK) groups currently active in the country, according to a report by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Tuesday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder to mediate in supermarket row
Gerhard Schröder. Photo: DPA

Can Gerhard Schröder bring an end to the Kaiser's Tengelmann saga?

Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd