This year has been marked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which forced more than 12 million persons to flee from their homes, from which more than 7 million have been registered across the European Union. Bordering Member States have been subjected to extraordinary pressure, and the numbers are expected to grow during winter.
Our members have extensive experience on supporting refugees from previous crises, and therefore, they promptly responded to the large influx of people coming from Ukraine. They played an essential role, among other civil society actors, in the immediate response to the crisis by providing transportation and accommodation and providing emergency services. Likewise, they have been developing long-term oriented support for the integration and inclusion of refugees coming from Ukraine and facilitating access to social services, education, and the labour market. We would like to highlight some of our members’ best practice examples below.
Diakonia Poland conducted cash payments to Ukrainian refugees. These cash payments granted a level of dignity to people fleeing Ukraine, as the recipients were able to spend the money on the items they needed. This project is a great example of how civil society organisations are filling the gaps in national reception of refugees.
Our member, Hungarian Interchurch Aid has been involved since the beginning of the conflict in 2014, working on delivering need-based long-term programmes and empowering civil society in Ukraine. They provided two types of cash transfers to Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced persons: the ‘multi-purpose cash assistance’ allowing freedom of choice to fulfil basic needs, and the ‘cash for protection’ to cover specific issues (e.g. medical costs). Likewise, they introduced the ‘flexible small grants programme’ to financially assist different organisations involved in the provision of humanitarian services.
Before the crisis, Diakonie Hamburg developed the Central Contact Point for Recognition (ZAA) directed to help with the procedures for the recognition of foreign professional qualifications, which is a key barrier to access employment. This programme also offers training and counselling sessions, which now benefits the integration of Ukrainian refugees into the labour market.
Diaconia Spain has been working on social and labour integration projects for refugees and stateless persons, and now, also beneficiaries of temporary protection coming from Ukraine. Under the project ‘A New Home’, they have created a safe space, including accommodation and multidisciplinary support directed to facilitate social integration. Through this programme, refugees have access to psychological, legal and health services, as well as workshops to develop personal skills. Another project entitled ‘Create your future’ enables the access of refugees to the labour market by improving their employability. This is done through occupational training, and tailored accompaniment during their career path. Concretely, beneficiaries not only receive support for preparing for interviews and finding offers that fit best their profiles, but also to adapt to the company and obstacles that may arise in their integration process. Both projects are offered in several cities around the country.
Another best practice example is the hotline offered by Diakonisches Werk Berlin-Brandenburg-schlesische-Oberlausitz. The Doweria Telephone service is used to provide pastoral care and counselling in Russian to Ukrainian refugees. During the crisis, the number of people seeking advice has doubled. Finally, Diakonie München und Oberbayern developed the integration project ‘the Refugee Stairway Center’. Working closely with reception facilities, they offer psychological counselling, intensive follow-up support, specialist bodies, targeted mediation in integration offers and networking with parishes. The main objective is to empower and facilitate the integration of refugees who deal with psychological stress when confronting trauma, lack of prospects or difficulties to adapt to the foreign country.