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Preferential Treatment of Ukrainian Refugees in EU Stirs Anger Amid Claims of ‘Institutional Racism’

© ERIC LALMANDAsylum seekers wait outside the headquarters of the Fedasil Federal Agency, where the registration of asylum seekers starts, in Brussels on August 29, 2022.
Asylum seekers wait outside the headquarters of the Fedasil Federal Agency, where the registration of asylum seekers starts, in Brussels on August 29, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.11.2022
A stream of refugees from Ukraine headed to the European Union after Russia began its special military operation in the neighboring country on 24 February, with many not necessarily fleeing areas of immediate military operations, but rather eager to avail themselves of an opportunity to start a new life abroad.
Millions of refugees from Ukraine are turning countries of the European Union into a breeding ground for ethnic conflict, according to media reports.
Europe had granted Ukrainians automatic residency and visas after the Ukraine conflict escalated, with this preferential treatment placing them at the front of the queue for refugee services and housing, leaving asylum-seekers from other countries at a distinct disadvantage.
Evident disparities have arisen between the Ukrainians - who are not necessarily fleeing areas of immediate military operations, but hope to seize the opportunity to settle abroad - and those fleeing conflicts in the Middle East. According to some activists helping refugees from countries such as Syria and Afghanistan, a two-tier system has been established that disadvantages and discriminates against asylum seekers who are not from Ukraine.
“This is institutional racism. There are two classes of refugees,” David Schmidtke, spokesman of the Saxony Refugee Council in Dresden, Germany, was cited as saying.
This comes as countries on the European continent have taken in 4.4Mln Ukrainians this year, as well as more than 365,000 asylum-seekers from Syria and Afghanistan. The huge numbers have far exceeded the 2015 influx of refugees to the continent when 1.2Mln fled Middle East conflict zones, predominantly heading for Germany.
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Now, inundated refugee services are increasingly struggling, with conditions said to be nearing breaking point in some places. Asylum seekers are reportedly crammed into overcrowded reception centers, forced to sleep on floors and in cardboard boxes.
With the flood of Ukrainians expected to continue, the distribution of refugees, as well as their uneven treatment, is increasingly raising questions.

“This is going to be a tough winter in Europe, which is facing the biggest forced displacement since the Second World War. The conflict in Ukraine is being protracted, and the Ukrainians are going to stay longer,” Hanne Beirens, the head of the Migration Policy Institute Europe, a Brussels-based research institution, told journalists.

Furthermore, discontent over the so-called two-tier refugee approach is bringing the cost of living challenges in Europe into sharp relief. Shockwaves from the backfiring western sanctions against Russia have exacerbated the continent-wide energy crisis, resulting in soaring inflation and plummeting living standards. The growing economic discontent has led to increased wariness of migration among the European population, warn activists.
As woes pile up for European residents, whose energy bills grow, forcing them to choose between heating homes and buying food, Zeno Danner, a district administrator of the traditional summer vacation destination of Konstanz, on the shores of Lake Constance in Germany, was cited as saying:
“We are lurching from one crisis to the next. We have an energy crisis. Our population is consumed by economic troubles.”
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Danner cited the growing anger of his constituents as sports facilities in the area were now being converted into refugee housing. In Germany, everything has been filled up - from public housing to hotels and hostels. To accommodate new arrivals, trade fair halls are reportedly being refitted, with container camps expanded. However, discontent and resentment are increasingly spilling over into incidents such as the recent torching of a hotel being prepared for asylum seekers near Dresden. Earlier, in October, a hostel housing Ukrainians in Germany was set on fire, according to reports.
All across Europe, refugees from war-torn countries are reported to be incensed by the unequal treatment they are receiving. In the Netherlands, hundreds of asylum seekers had to sleep outside in inhumane conditions throughout the summer, without access to water or medical aid, resulting in the death of a 3-month-old girl. A Guinean refugee in Belgium had been living on the street since July after applying for asylum, with the European Court of Human Rights finally ordering the Belgian government to provide him with housing on 2 November, media outlets reported.
View of the Berlin skyline seen from Potsdamer Platz to Alexanderplatz, including the TV Tower, the Berlin Cathedral (R), the Berlin palace under construction and the city's town hall (Rotes Rathaus, R) - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.10.2022
Berlin Struggles to Deal With Influx of Refugees From Ukraine
Belgium's capital Brussels has reportedly already run out of accommodation for refugees, with 3,500 asylum seekers left homeless. One refugee from Afghanistan, who had fled the Taliban,* is now forced to live in cardboard boxes under a stairway with his family. He told journalists:
“I never thought I would be living in a street like that in Europe. Our country has been at war for 45 years, and I thought I could get a better life here.”
Furthermore, Europeans are increasingly tiring of the Ukrainian refugees, with recent reports suggesting the guests have outstayed their welcome. On the one hand, local authorities in countries such as Germany, which is second only to Poland in the number of Ukrainians it has welcomed, were reportedly complaining of being left to cope with the influx unaided. In the Czech capital Prague, huge demonstrations have taken place against the sanctions on Russia that have sent household bills soaring, and there have also been signs of resentment towards Ukraine. After a string of alleged thefts and deplorable behavior in the city by the refugees, shops began displaying notices reading: "No entry to Ukrainians."
Other East European countries are also unhappy with the influx of arrivals from Ukraine, as they are increasingly forced to tackle their own economic challenges.
Protesters rally in London demanding action on energy prices and cost of living crisis - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.10.2022
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* The Taliban is under United Nations sanctions for terrorist activities.
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