Lhe Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that around 5.7 million people fled the war in Ukraine between February 24 and May 4. The European Union (EU) hosts the vast majority of these people, of whom 3.1 million entered through Poland and 850,000 through Romania.
The displaced Ukrainians immediately benefited from favorable political and media treatment, including among the governments and political parties most hostile to immigration. The term “refugees” has imposed itself to designate Ukrainians in contrast to the “irregular migratory flows” from which it was necessary to protect ourselves following the fall of Kabul (Afghanistan) in August 2021.
But the application of the 1951 Geneva Convention, the cornerstone of international refugee law, to people fleeing conflict is a debate for only a few jurists and experts. Politicians or other opinion makers who try to pit refugees against migrants do not understand this debate. In fact, empathy for some exiles and dehumanization for others says nothing about Ukrainians or Afghans, but more about the people who make such distinctions.
Contradiction with the “Dublin system”
The measures adopted for the Ukrainians run counter to the asylum policies that the European Union has been trying to put in place for two decades: relaxation of controls at the external borders, immediate access to protection, a residence permit and social rights including the right to work, a reception based on citizen solidarity and, above all, the free choice of the country of destination which is in contradiction with the sacrosanct principle of the “Dublin system”.
It was enough for many defenders of the rights of exiles to denounce a double standard between Ukrainians and other exiles, often non-Europeans and perceived as predominantly Muslims. These defenders do not lack arguments. Exiles continue to die in the Mediterranean in indifference and the street remains an essential stopover for many people seeking the protection of France.
Moreover, the treatment granted to foreigners who regularly resided in Ukraine, in particular foreign students, fuels this feeling of double standards. Some states, like Spain, did not want to make a distinction between Ukrainians and others, while other countries, like France, refuse them access to temporary protection.
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