Government offers better prospects to Ukrainian refugees
In response to the horrific events in Ukraine, the Dutch government is preparing to receive large numbers of people who have been forced to flee their homes and country to escape indiscriminate violence and are now seeking sanctuary. To offer people the safety, peace and care they need, a collective approach is required from central, regional and local government and many other partners. There is also scope for individuals to offer assistance. With this in mind, the Ministerial Crisis Management Committee (MCCb) made a series of decisions on Wednesday.
Much of what the government and society are facing is unprecedented, due in part to the scale of the problem and the speed of the response required. This is not without risk. In all respects, all parties involved are being asked to make the utmost effort to find the right balance between speed and care.
The Security Regions are currently working hard on preparations to receive the first 50,000 Ukrainian refugees. In addition, planning is underway to receive even greater numbers of people, as well as for the long-term reception of refugees from Ukraine. This encompasses the right to work, education and social services. To make sure everything is properly organised, the MCCb decided to set up a National Programme on Wednesday. The National Programme will prepare for long-term reception, including the provision of structural care, education, work and social services. This programme will be custom designed within the Ministry of Justice and Security.
Guidelines for social and private initiatives
The government welcomes the many initiatives from citizens and civic and commercial organisations to help Ukrainians and support them where possible. The Red Cross, the Dutch Council for Refugees and the Salvation Army have joined forces to coordinate these initiatives. Together with other partners, on Friday 18 March, they launched a platform (www.refugeehelp.nl) where private initiatives can offer assistance (goods, services, volunteers). In terms of private accommodation, this consortium is working with TakeCareBNB to recruit and screen host families. The government is currently working with all relevant partners on guidelines for private individuals who receive Ukrainian refugees, so that all citizens who offer reception places are properly informed. These guidelines for private individuals are expected to be published by the end of next week. The consortium has also set up Humanitarian Service Points at various stations in the Netherlands to welcome refugees from Ukraine, give them information and refer them to a reception location. Today, the Red Cross launched a multilingual WhatsApp helpline for refugees and a Dutch-language information number for people with questions about things like private reception initiatives.
At present, homes are in short supply. The process of receiving refugees from Ukraine should not exacerbate this situation. The government calls upon the parties involved to organise the reception of refugees in a way that ensures other people looking for a home are not pushed out of the market. The government is well aware of the possibility that many refugees may remain in the Netherlands for a long time and may even want to settle here permanently. Hugo de Jonge, Minister for Housing and Spatial Planning, is working closely with Eric van der Burg, Minister for Migration, to devise an approach to this issue.
Many of the refugees are children. Given the available reception capacity for 50,000 refugees in the short term, the government is at this stage allowing for an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 school-age children. Under the National Programme, preparations are being made for higher numbers and a longer stay. The Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, in collaboration with several of the parties involved, is making preparations to enable schools for newcomers to the Netherlands to scale up the number of educational places available. In regions where it appears that it will not be feasible to scale up to the required degree, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science will set up additional, temporary educational facilities. In these facilities, refugee children will learn the Dutch language and receive vocational education. Their well-being will also be closely monitored. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is exploring the possibility of using teachers from the Ukrainian community.
In time, some Ukrainian refugees will want to work in the Netherlands. Under the Temporary Protection Directive, they have access to the labour market, but employers will for now still ask for a work permit. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment intends to arrange matters so that Ukrainian refugees will not require work permits. Work is being done to create a specific exemption, which will include a reporting obligation. The aim is for the exemption to take effect on 1 April 2022.
Ukrainians who seek shelter in the Netherlands will be accommodated. The Ukraine Information Coordination Hub has a list of the Security Regions’ central reception locations. All Ukrainians who have fled to the Netherlands are asked to register with the local municipal authority. This also applies to refugees who are staying with friends or family. Everyone who reports to a municipal authority will be recorded and registered on the basis of documents. In the event of doubt, an origin and identification process will be carried out. Refugees are vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation. It is therefore important that they register with the municipal authority in the town or city where they are received. This will prevent them from slipping through the cracks and ensure they are eligible for the support available to refugees. Children travelling alone require special attention. They are sometimes placed directly with host families or taken in by people with no parental authority. They need special attention because they may have suffered trauma. Registration with the local municipal authority will ensure children receive the right care and their host families receive the best support.