Reception of refugees from Ukraine is taking shape
The reception of refugees from Ukraine is taking shape – for the short term in the form of mostly basic accommodation for the initial wave of 50,000 people, and then for a possibly larger group and those who may be staying here for a longer period of time. The safety regions and municipalities have succeeded in finding accommodation for around 30,000 people; over 20,000 of these places are already occupied. More than 13,000 refugees have been registered. The influx of refugees from Ukraine poses a major challenge for the Netherlands, and the Dutch authorities are hard at work to address all the relevant issues, in both the short and medium term. On Wednesday 30 March 2022 the government, meeting as the Ministerial Crisis Management Committee, made a number of decisions relating to the reception of refugees from Ukraine.
The government welcomes the many initiatives by private citizens and by civil society organisations and commercial entities to help refugees from Ukraine, and it supports them wherever possible. People are raising money, collecting necessary goods and opening their homes.
To support these private initiatives, the authorities have drawn up and published a guide for those interested in hosting Ukrainians: www.rijksoverheid.nl/opvangoekraine (site in Dutch). This site contains information for private individuals on how to offer accommodation, what sorts of things to be mindful of, and what services are available to help them.
The government is currently receiving requests from private initiatives for official statements that are necessary to pick up people from other European countries. We assume that most of these individuals have only the best of intentions, but it cannot be ruled out that some do not. In order to issue such a statement, the authorities need to be able to assess the nature of the initiative and the intentions of the people behind it. This is simply not feasible with a situation of this magnitude. The government has therefore decided not to encourage such initiatives and feels that it is irresponsible to travel to other countries to pick up refugees from Ukraine. With a view to ensuring the safety of all parties involved, the government will not be issuing any statements.
As was previously decided, refugees from Ukraine will be given a subsistence allowance to buy food and clothing. The Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) and a number of municipalities assessed the scheme for feasibility. On that basis the subsistence allowance was modified in a number of respects: the amounts have been rounded off, and it has been agreed that a monthly sum of €260 will be paid to all refugees from Ukraine. Refugees from Ukraine who are staying with host families will be given an additional monthly amount (referred to as an accommodation allowance) of €215 per adult and €55 per minor. Refugees can use this amount to help cover to the additional costs incurred by the host family. The host families themselves will not receive any reimbursement. It has also been decided that the subsistence allowance will be discontinued if a refugee from Ukraine starts doing paid work.
The Dutch labour market is open to refugees from Ukraine who are willing and able to work. The government has abolished the requirement for a work permit. A number of additional conditions have been put into place, however, in order to better protect this vulnerable group.
Earlier this month the Council of the European Union activated the Temporary Protection Directive. The Dutch government has decided that the work permit requirement will be lifted for refugees who enter the Netherlands under this directive. This exemption takes effect on 1 April (retroactive to 4 March).
To offer additional protection to this vulnerable group of refugees, the government is imposing a number of additional conditions on access to the labour market. Members of this group will, for example, only be permitted to work as paid employees. Employers will also be required to register prospective employees with the Employee Insurance Agency at least two days before they start their job, and to submit certain information to the authorities, such as the employee’s working hours and place of work.
A statutory task for the Netherlands’ mayors
As previously announced, the government is obliged to exercise its emergency powers in this situation; within the existing system it is impossible to accommodate all the refugees from Ukraine due to the sheer number of people involved. At present, mayors are taking in refugees on a voluntary basis, and the government is deeply grateful to them for that. But it is also important to have a legal foundation for this process, and with this in mind, over the next few days the country’s mayors will be given the statutory task of finding accommodation for people from Ukraine. This step is being taken pursuant to the Population Evacuation Act. By activating its emergency powers, the government hopes that the various parties concerned can work together to find enough places to accommodate refugees from Ukraine. Mayors will be given the necessary financial resources for this. It has been agreed with the VNG that municipalities will not suffer financially as a result of taking in refugees.
The European Commission has asked the Netherlands to take in people with urgent medical issues who have fled to one of Ukraine’s EU neighbours. In response the Dutch national coordination organisation for the distribution of patients (LCPS), a unit of the national network for acute care (LNAZ), assessed the available capacity in the Netherlands. Partly on the basis of this assessment, it has been decided to allow these patients into the country. These individuals will be transferred from other member states to the Netherlands in a system specially designed for that purpose. The LCPS is in charge of coordinating this operation and arranging the distribution of the patients around the country. UMC Utrecht has been asked to open its Major Incident Hospital for the initial admission. The necessary medical tests will be performed there. After that, patients will be transferred to appropriate hospitals elsewhere in the Netherlands.
Good, safe care depends on the ability of healthcare professionals to communicate with their patients. This means that in the case of a language barrier, it will be necessary in some cases to use the services of a professional interpreter. Often, refugees from Ukraine do not speak enough English to be able to communicate with healthcare workers. It is therefore important that they have easy access to a professional interpreter, without excessive paperwork. To make this possible, an amount of €1.6 million has been made available for the period up to and including June 2022.