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Millions of Ukrainians forced out of their home to survive

EU knows it can count on Serbia’s hospitality and compassion towards Ukrainians, EU Ambassadors say

Home. Home is a big word and a big emotion. It is the place where you feel safe and comfortable with the people you love. No one leaves home and becomes a refugee unless home becomes an unbearable place, dangerous to the degree of deadly. And there are huge numbers of people in Ukraine who find themselves in precisely that situation. They need to pack up a few belongings and to seek a way out in order to escape the Russian military onslaught. More than 2.5 million people have escaped the Russian illegal invasion so far. And every day there are more and more.

Pictures reach us from Ukraine where people desperately try to get onto trains, which would take them to safer areas, into Western Ukraine or further into Europe. Women, elderly men and children, in a state of fear, exhaustion and utter desperation. Too many innocents have already died – because of the Russian war on Ukraine. There are more and more reports about unaccompanied children fleeing the war.

These days we are experiencing one of the worst refugee crises in Europe since the end of the Second World War. The humanitarian crisis caused solely by the unprovoked Russian invasion splits up families, and uproots people. It is a catastrophe of unbearable proportions. The world had already enough people suffering from war and other man-made or natural disasters – there was no need for Putin to add millions more to this list.

Across the border, inside Russia, albeit in smaller numbers, there is another significant stream of people preparing to leave their homes, those who object the war and who cannot stand the system of the Russian government any longer. Some fear the consequences of the new oppressive laws which severely sanction any alternative messaging on the war in Ukraine: in Russia, citizens face up to 15 years in prison for sharing information about the war. Others fear being sent to the army, to wage a meaningless war. Several thousand anti-war protesters have tragically been denied this choice, as they have been arrested while spontaneously expressing their opinions in the streets. Our thoughts are with them.

The invasion of Ukraine is the result of a political system ruled by one man, not the will of a nation. During demonstrations in Belgrade, many Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian people were marching together with Serbs against the war. This is why we also want to express our deep regret over isolated acts of discrimination, which have been reported against Russian citizens living abroad.

The entire international community needs to join forces to end Russia’s military aggression and stand for peace and the rules-based multilateral order. The invasion is not only about Ukraine, it is about the world’s security and stability for current and future generations. Serbia is part of that international community and a candidate country to the EU. We welcome that Serbia joined 141 countries and voted in favour of the resolution of the UN General Assembly, deploring in the strongest terms Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and demanding that Russia immediately ceases the use of force against Ukraine. We count on Serbia to continue standing up for international law, for Ukraine and against Russia’s invasion.

On March 4th the EU Member States adopted a decision to grant to people fleeing from Ukraine – Ukrainians and all those who had made Ukraine their home – the status of temporary protection for one year, renewable. The objective is to alleviate pressure on national asylum systems and to allow displaced persons to enjoy harmonised rights across the EU. These rights include residence, access to the labour market and housing, medical assistance, and access to education for children. Serbia has also shown commitment by signalling that it is taking the necessary steps to align with the EU’s decision to offer such status to Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.

The European Union has adopted a 500 million euro emergency support package for response activities dealing with the humanitarian consequences of the war in Ukraine, including to provide food, water, healthcare, shelter, protection and help cover basic needs of those affected by the war, whether they are in Ukraine or have fled. Through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, Ukraine also requested direct emergency assistance, such as medical supplies and equipment, ambulances, shelter equipment, generators, and other much-needed emergency relief items, and 29 European countries have already responded to this call. The financial value of this assistance is estimated well above €100 million, with approximately 85 million items of in-kind assistance currently on their way or have already been delivered to Ukraine. The items are being delivered both directly to Ukraine and through logistical hubs established in Poland and Romania. Another hub will be set in Slovakia.

Serbia is also part of this EU solidarity mechanism and has benefitted from it in the past, notably to help Serbia fight COVID19, or to cope with the migration crisis since 2015. The EU and Serbia have been partners in the area of humanitarian assistance for refugees for many years in different crises.

Serbia has a long-standing experience in receiving refugees, both during the wars of the 1990s in former Yugoslavia and the 2015 migration crisis. It was and is a common goal of the EU and Serbia to provide durable housing to the refugees from former Yugoslavia. The EU-funded Regional Housing Programme for refugees and IDPs from the 1990s wars has so far provided 6,157 families a new roof over their head in Serbia.

Serbia has also used its expertise to assist migrants and refugees since 2015. We have witnessed a commendable approach towards people in need. Serbia and the EU have been reliable partners in managing migration, committed to cooperation and regional stability. Since 2015, the EU supported Serbia with more than 130 million euro to improve its migration management system and has enabled Serbia to provide housing, education, health and protection services to people who have fled their countries.

Yet again, we are seeing good will and solidarity of people in Serbia in the light of the current humanitarian crisis caused by Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Given the Serbian experience and track record, we are confident that the Serbian government will assume its responsibility in creating the conditions for the reception of a meaningful number of refugees from Ukraine. The fact that Serbia today is able to offer the same standards as the EU when it comes to the legal status and rights of migrants and refugees is a result of the migration management and asylum system reforms that Serbia has worked on in the past years.

Therefore, we know that we can count on Serbia and that the Ukrainian people fleeing the atrocities of war can count on Serbia’s hospitality and compassion. From our side, we will do our utmost to support Serbia supporting Ukrainians, because Ukrainians are leaving their homes in order to survive.

Potpisuju šef Delegacije Evropske unije u Srbiji i šefovi misija država članica EU u Srbiji

Nj.E. g-din Emanuele Žiofre, ambasador Evropske unije

Nj.E. g-din Pjer Košar,ambasador Francuske

Nj.E. g-din Tomaš Kuhta, ambasador Češke

Nj.E. g-đa Anika Ben David, ambasadorka Švedske

Nj.E. g-din Raul Bartolome Molina, ambasador Španije

Nj.E. g-din Kyn Adam, ambasador Belgije

Nj.E. g-din Atila Pinter, ambasador Mađarske

Nj.E. g-din Rafal Perl, ambasador Poljske

Nj.E. g-đa Suzan Šajn, ambasadorka Danske

Nj.E. g-din Demetrios Teofilaktu, ambasador Kipra

Nj.E. g-đa Izult Ficdžerald, ambasadorka Irske

Nj.E. g-din Vitautas Pinkus, ambasador Litvanije

Nj.E. g-din Jorgos Diakofotakis, ambasador Grčke

Nj.E. g-din Karlo Lo Kašo ambasador Italije

Nj.E. g-din Girts Jaunzems, otpravnik poslova Letonije

Nj.E. g-din Filip Donkel, ambasador Luksemburga

Nj.E. g-din Just Reintjes, ambasador Holandije

Nj.E. g-din Fedor Rosoha, ambasador Slovačke

Nj.E. g-din Gordon Paće Bonelo, ambassador Malte

Nj.E. g-đa Kristi Karelson, ambasadorka Estonije

Nj.E. g-din Petko Dojkov, ambasador Bugarske

Nj.E. g-din Nikolaus Luteroti,ambasador Austrije

Nj.E. g-đa Silvija Davidoju, ambasadorka Rumunije

Nj.E. g-din Kimo Lahdevirta, ambasador Finske

Nj.E. g-din Hidajet Bisčević, ambasador Hrvatske

Nj.E. g-din Tomas Šib, ambasador Nemačke

Nj.E. g-đa Viržinia Pina, ambasadorka Portugala

Nj.E. g-din Damjan Bergant, ambasador Slovenije


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