Immigration law and policy for people affected by the invasion of Ukraine in the Netherlands

Friday 22 April 2022

Hermie de Voer
Everaert, Amsterdam

Thomas van Houwelingen
Everaert, Amsterdam

The Netherlands has responded warmly to the influx of Ukrainian nationals due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Refugees are not only welcomed in people’s homes, but millions of euros have been collected to help Ukrainians in the Netherlands and abroad. Practically every school and sport club in the Netherlands is organising some sort of sponsored event for Ukraine.

The welcoming spirit has also found its way to the legal world. Based on the European directive for Temporary Protection, created in 2001 after the war in the former Yugoslavia, the Netherlands has designed very lenient, generous and welcoming rules for all those fleeing the war.

All Ukrainian nationals and all third country nationals holding a Ukrainian residence permit who resided in Ukraine on 23 February 2022; who fled Ukraine on or after 27 November 2021; or who were already present in the Netherlands prior to that date should be eligible for temporary protection.

It will be possible for Ukrainians to register in a municipality database based on their passports or other proof of identity. After registration at the municipality, Ukrainians will be invited to collect a temporary residence document at the Immigration Service and to formally apply for an asylum permit, which will then be put on hold. They can work in employed work if in possession of a special notification form; self-employment is not allowed.

Children of the temporarily protected can go to school and Ukrainians will have access to healthcare, housing or at least shelter. By mid-May, the Immigration Service intends open a special location for people from Ukraine to formally submit an asylum request. Until then, they all fall under the Temporary Protection scheme.

However, it must be bitter for other refugees to witness this unprecedented leniency. In the Netherlands, others fleeing the same Russian bombs – such as Syrians – had to go through the regular asylum procedures. Admittedly, a considerable proportion of Syrian applicants were issued with asylum permits, but others had to wait years before they could live and work in the Netherlands.

Furthermore, the lives of asylum seekers with more difficult asylum claims, such as those involving sexual orientation or political opinions, or even Ukrainians fleeing the war resulting from the annexation of the Crimea in 2014, have been put on hold for years. The same goes for asylum seekers coming from Yemen or Afghanistan.

Although these crises are of a different nature, and the reception of asylum seekers was initially carried out by neighbouring countries, the difference in treatment is striking. One would wish that all refugees fleeing a war or persecution were welcomed so warmly as the Ukrainians are at present.