Temporary Protection Directive

Briefing 22-03-2022

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, over 3.4 million people have already been forced to seek refuge, mostly in neighbouring countries. The European Commission estimates that Russia aggression may have displaced up to 6.5 million people. In response, the European Union swiftly decided to grant EU-wide temporary protection to people arriving from Ukraine. The EU Temporary Protection Directive (Directive 2001/55/EC) enables EU Member States to move rapidly to offer protection and rights to people in need of immediate protection and to avoid overwhelming national asylum systems in cases of mass arrivals of displaced persons. Although invoked several times in the past, the directive has never been activated before. Russia's military aggression prompted a unanimous decision in the Council to grant temporary protection (for an initial period of one year) to people fleeing the war in Ukraine. This temporary protection may be extended automatically by two six-monthly periods, for a maximum of another year. The EU's decision to grant temporary protection has been widely welcomed and the directive is considered the most appropriate instrument under the current exceptional circumstances. There are, however, still many open questions as to its practical implementation in the EU Member States. The scale of the arrivals entails many immediate as well as longer-term challenges. On the other hand, and in spite of accusations of double standards in favour of 'white' or ethnic European refugees, the demonstrations of EU-wide solidarity with the Ukrainian people raise hopes for concrete progress on overall reform of the EU's migration and asylum rules. At the time of writing, the conflict has already caused civilian casualties and the destruction of hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure, creating a humanitarian catastrophe both within Ukraine and beyond its borders.