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Reader question: How is Germany supporting refugees from Ukraine?

With tens of thousands of people arriving in Germany from Ukraine after fleeing war, many are wondering what practical support they are receiving.

Refugees from Ukraine walk to a collection point at the main station in Berlin.
Refugees from Ukraine walk to a collection point at the main station in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Paul Zinken
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We’ve had a few emails from readers asking us how Germany provides practical support to refugees from Ukraine. We’ll look at parts of the country like Berlin which is heavily affected in more detail soon. First here’s an overview of what people fleeing from Ukraine – and German residents helping them – should know. 

How many refugees from Ukraine is Germany expecting?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is driving tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, two million people have now fled to Ukraine’s neighbouring countries, most of them to Poland.

Migration researcher Gerald Knaus believes it’s possible that a total of 10 million people will flee Ukraine. According to estimates, up to 225,000 people from Ukraine could seek protection in Germany.

On Monday authorities said more than 50,200 people had registered in Germany so far but the real number is likely higher. Most of the refugees are women, children or vulnerable people. That’s because Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave their home country.

READ ALSO: How people in Germany can support Ukraine

Who can enter Germany freely?

Under normal circumstances Ukrainians with a biometric passport can enter Germany for 90 days without a visa, and they do not have to register with authorities during this time. To stay longer, refugees would have to register with authorities. However, EU countries have agreed to apply a special rule that will ease the process. (more on that below). 

People fleeing Ukraine queue for information about trains and tickets at a train station in Przemysl, Poland.

People fleeing Ukraine queue for information about trains and tickets at a train station in Przemysl, Poland. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Markus Schreiber

People without Ukrainian passports can also enter under certain conditions: they must have lived legally in Ukraine before the invasion of the Russian army February 24th, for example through a national or international protection status or with a student visa.

Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) said on Sunday that refugees from Ukraine would be accepted regardless of where they are originally from.

“We want to save lives,” she said. “This does not depend on the passport.

“The vast majority of refugees are Ukrainians. People from other countries who already had a permanent right of residence in Ukraine bring this status with them,” she explained.

Faeser said that many students who are not from Ukraine want to return to their home country, but need to do it through another country due to the situation.

Faeser said there would be no upper limit on the admission of Ukrainian refugees to Germany.

“For the first time, all EU states are taking in war refugees, especially our eastern neighbours. This is a completely different situation than we have had in Europe so far.”

According to the refugee organisation Pro Asyl, however, not all EU countries fully implement these rules. They have raised concerns about some eastern EU states not allowing non-Ukrainians to enter the country as refugees. 

A woman with a pram sits in a reception centre for refugees from Ukraine in Leipzig.

A woman with a pram sits in a reception centre for refugees from Ukraine in Leipzig. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

Do refugees from Ukraine have to apply for asylum?

No. After an EU meeting last week, it was decided that those fleeing the war will be granted temporary protection in all EU countries.

The Temporary Protection Directive will apply to any Ukrainians who want to come to an EU country. The corresponding regulation from Germany’s Interior Ministry is to come into force on Wednesday.

READ ALSO: EU countries agree to lift visa rules for Ukrainians fleeing war

The protection status is valid for one year, and it can be extended to up to three years. It means people fleeing war in Ukraine won’t have to apply for asylum (which is a long drawn-out process) or for a visa. 

If someone is suspected of having committed serious crimes or is a danger to the general public, authorities can refuse temporary protection, however.

Where do Ukrainian refugees find accommodation?

Many Ukrainians have relatives or friends in Germany. These contacts are likely to make communication and arrival much easier overall. According to the Federal Statistical Office, 331,000 people with a Ukrainian migration background live in Germany.

In the past few days, a particularly large number of people have arrived in Berlin. As in other federal states, they are accommodated in arrival centres, emergency accommodation, hotels and youth hostels.

There is still no uniform nationwide procedure for registering refugees in Germany. Ukrainians should register at initial reception centres or immigration offices so they can receive social benefits and be advised on what to do next. Despite this there have been lots of reports of confusion. 

The federal government is providing 50,000 accommodation places throughout Germany, many of which are already occupied, according to the Interior Ministry.  Another 5,000 spots could be added in the short term.

Since the beginning of the week, the Nuremberg Federal Office for Migration has been assisting with the nationwide accommodation of refugees.

How many people each federal state will bring in has not yet been clarified. Usually, the so-called “Königstein Key” applies. It is calculated on the basis of tax revenue and population. According to this, Bavaria, for instance, would have to accommodate and care for about 15 percent of refugees.

Many volunteers have offered to take in people temporarily. On the site, hosts have already promised more than 260,000 beds.

READ ALSO: Eastern German states ready to welcome large number of refugees from Ukraine

How and where are people arriving?

Most people are currently arriving in Berlin by train and bus – about 10,000 people a day. Rail operator Deutsche Bahn is offering free train travel for any Ukrainian national or resident heading from Poland to Germany.

Solidarity and willingness to help are enormous, but the authorities in the capital have asked for more support.

“Berlin can’t do it alone,” said Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey at the weekend. People who have fled the war in Ukraine are also arriving in Hamburg, Bavaria and eastern German states.

What benefits do refugees from Ukraine receive, and can they work?

They initially receive a temporary secure residence title and benefits under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act, which are mainly funded by the states.

Meanwhile, refugees can gain employment with the approval from immigration authorities (the Ausländerbehörde).

Can Ukrainian children attend school in Germany?

Yes, the EU directive provides for access to the education system of the host country. German states are preparing to admit the children to certain extra classes so that German is also taught as a foreign language.

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Member comments

  1. Whete is this so called government help? Giffey in berlin is a liar. I have 3 ukraine people living with me. I can’t communicate without google translate. They are ill. I have been to every government office only to be told nothing is set up yet. Germany is doing nothing except talking. Lying ass holes

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Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.