Benefits for Ukrainian refugees cut as Ukraine’s social crisis deepens

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Poland will cut a key social benefit for Ukrainian refugees on July 1, the government announced on Wednesday. From the beginning of next month, those fleeing the war will no longer receive 40 zlotys a day, or about $9.40 at the current exchange rate, to cover the cost of food and accommodation. Exceptions are made only for large families, pregnant women and invalids. Major cities, such as Warsaw and Krakow, recently ended free municipal transport and train fares for displaced Ukrainians, who number in the millions in the country.

A representative of Poland’s right-wing and nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, which holds the presidency and a majority in parliament, told reporters that the aim “is to get Ukrainians to work”. In other words, they can either stay and serve as cheap labor or leave the country, having lost access to the money they need to survive.

Even beyond the fact that many lack permanent housing, Ukrainian refugees face barriers related to language, age and family status in finding work. The majority of them are women, children and the elderly. Most of those in the latter two categories cannot hold a job, either because of their youth – 48% are under 18 – or age-related physical limitations.

Majority female-headed households with young children face an impossible situation as schooling is not available for children under the age of three, many Ukrainian students take online courses through their home institutions and summer vacation is about to begin. Support services – temporary shelters, translation services, food banks, childcare, logistical assistance – staffed overwhelmingly by volunteers are also drying up, as ordinary Poles do not have the personal resources to support the volume of donations needed.

Poland has yet to receive the promised aid package of $154.5 million from the EU to support refugees, although various Polish provinces have already disbursed tens of millions of dollars to make the daily payments of 40 zlotys. Just recently and only after significant pressure, the country won the right to dip into unused funds from Europe’s multi-billion euro COVID-19 relief package.

The Czech Republic, to which 348,000 Ukrainians have fled, plans to take a step similar to that of Poland. This could deprive Ukrainian refugees who cannot find employment after 180 days of social benefits, including medical care.

In Bulgaria, thousands of displaced people are now being evicted from hotels along the Black Sea coast in time for the tourist season. Refugees report a chaotic process of removal and say they have received virtually no information about what awaits them in the “buffer centres” set up near Burgas airport, to which they are offered a transfer.

A nurse who fled eastern Ukraine with her 13-year-old daughter told RFE/RL: “We have no official information. Absolutely none. A group of volunteers posted a statement on Facebook explaining, for example, that instructions for refugees on what to do at the end of their hotel stay were posted in Bulgarian, which they cannot read . These volunteers described the actions of the Bulgarian government as a “complete lack of communication with the refugees from the moment they cross the border [and a] complete lack of understanding of needs.

However, Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Kalina Konstantinova, complaining that the buses sent to seaside hotels to transport refugees to the “buffer centres” were not full, told the press: “Protection is a right, not an obligation. Therefore, I will no longer let empty buses or cars go. The development of the situation from this moment is in the hands of the Ukrainian community in Bulgaria. However, Bulgarian officials have acknowledged that the state only has room for around 33,000 people in its various facilities, despite there being 63,000 Ukrainian refugees in the country.

Media coverage of the crisis has widely portrayed the problem as one of ungrateful visitors unwilling to have to leave their luxury vacation spots.

Spanish officials receive a large number of complaints from Ukrainians of mockery and mistreatment. Only 6.5% of the 47,000 refugees in Spain have found work, mainly seasonal agricultural jobs linked to the orange harvest. In addition to the country having an unemployment rate of 13.5%, which makes jobs scarce, newly arrived Ukrainians face a language barrier. According to reports, thanks to social media, Russian speakers living in Spain are helping Ukrainians – many of whom are of Russian or mixed Russian-Ukrainian ancestry or simply bilingual – to navigate daily life and find work.

Switzerland is preparing to cancel the special refugee status of Ukrainians who return home for more than 15 days in three months or who have been in another country for more than two months. If, for example, a mother needs to travel to Ukraine or elsewhere to reunite with her children or family, but cannot stay because it is dangerous, there is no work or she does not has no home, she risks losing her right to return to Switzerland safely. port. As there are more than 3.6 million Ukrainian refugees spread across Europe and elsewhere, all caught up in a chaotic world of scramble for housing, jobs, schools and visas, the ability to travel for penalty-free periods is essential for families.

In Britain, thousands of Ukrainians with temporary status are stuck in a drawn-out visa process and many who have been granted visas cannot travel to the UK. Currently around 500 Ukrainian children who have foster families waiting for them in Britain cannot go because they cannot get through the paperwork. The charity Safe Passage says the children are now “alone in Ukraine and neighboring countries”.

Problems are increasing even among those who make it to the UK, with many left homeless, reports the BBC. The government program “Houses for Ukraine” continues to have problems. According to another outlet, East Yorkshire residents who opened their homes to refugees and were meant to receive a £350 allowance ‘didn’t see a dime’. “As much as £400,000 of money promised to foster families and people fleeing war has still not materialized.

Inside Ukraine, where 7.8 million people are internally displaced, a social catastrophe is brewing. The country’s GDP is expected to fall by 45% this year, according to the Ministry of Finance. Already 5 million jobs, about a third of the national total, have been lost.

But as the United States and NATO allies pour ever more lethal weapons into the country, the International Labor Organization warns: “If the military escalation continues, more than 43% of jobs , or about seven million, could be lost. If the conflict lasted just another six months, the United Nations Development Report indicates that 90% of Ukraine’s population could fall into poverty or survive just on the edge.

The International Organization for Migration has just released a report showing that a large number of Ukrainians are in dire straits. According to the agency, among the internally displaced people, 77% need direct financial assistance, 27% need clothes and shoes, 27% need health care and medicine, 25% % need food (a growing number), 22% need hygiene items and 28% need transport.

Even among those who have not fled somewhere within the country’s borders, the level of need is high. Fifty-seven percent of Ukrainians still living at home lack money, 24 percent cannot get the health care and medicine they need, and 14 percent do not have enough food. Among both groups, 30% of families with children under 5 report having problems feeding their children due to a lack of formula and baby food. This number is up three percentage points from a month ago. Nearly 20% of the Ukrainian population say they need psychological and mental health support.

At the end of April, Disability Rights International published a report showing that the situation of institutionalized children with disabilities in Ukraine is dire. According to Euractiv, “They found children living in overcrowded rooms filled with strong smells of urine and feces and encountered children suffering from serious untreated illnesses such as hydrocephalus, which leads to death in 80% of cases. They also encountered children who were physically underdeveloped due to enforced inactivity and showing signs of emotional abuse and neglect.

On June 1, the head of the Chernivtsi regional military administration in Ukraine was found guilty of “manipulation with humanitarian aid”. He was using ambulances donated by Italy for “commercial purposes”.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The social consequences of the NATO/Ukraine-Russia war are intensifying and will continue to do so, as Washington and the EU continue to escalate the conflict, creating the conditions for the regional proxy war to turn into a full-fledged conflict. global. Tens of billions of military aid and ever more deadly weapons are flowing into Ukraine, laying the groundwork for strikes on Russian territory. The criminal, reckless and dead-end invasion of Moscow gave the United States and NATO what they wanted. The working class is paying the price.

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