Europe’s Refugee Policy Reveals Discriminatory Practices

Months into the Ukraine-Russia conflict and millions of Ukrainians have been displaced and scattered on European territory. European nations have dealt with refugee “crises” for decades, but it has become increasingly clear that this flow is different. Critics have been pointing out racially biased and discriminatory refugee policies from European countries since near the beginning of the conflict, but not much seems to have changed. White Ukrainian refugees are given significant priority over non-European refugees. This is not only ethically, but also lawfully unjust.

As Europe’s long period of peace has come to an end, it is imperative that European nations host refugees within its own territory. The situation immediately revealed the amount of racism and prejudice that is still ingrained in European culture. In the first weeks, racially selective procedures were reported on the borders of Ukraine, where people of darker skin colors and non-European ethnicities were refused, sidelined, not given food, shelters, or blankets, verbally or physically abused, and generally given different treatment than white Ukrainians.

The profiling did not end past border control, as stories of peculiar occurrences and scandals began piling up. Migrants of non-white heritage are for instance provided with 15-day visas, while white Ukrainians often walk away with a 3-year residence permit via a Temporary Protection Directive (TPD). The TPD is an EU Council measure that grants Ukrainian refugees temporary residence, health care and the right to live and work in EU countries. Significantly more white Ukrainians are accepted and admitted on this basis than refugees with other ethnicities.

These measures are both admirable and deserved, but entirely selective. The 2015 “refugee crisis” was a whole different course. Country after country declared to be “full”, sent people back into a sea they had just risked their lives attempting to cross, managed senseless integration policies, and tore children away from their families. The pace and hospitality with which Ukrainians today are hosted stands in stark contrast to conventional migration systems and should prompt a rethinking of these systems.

College Voor De Rechten Van De Mens, a Dutch human rights organization, called out all European nations on this double-standard, even suggesting that it is against the law to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity unless there is a lawful exception. The TPD can force mayors to host Ukrainian refugees without having to endure usual integration procedures, but it does not force mayors to prioritize Ukrainians over other refugees. All refugees should enjoy the same rights, regardless of their background. College Voor de Rechten Van De Mens also proposes that the “refugee overflow” can be tackled by establishing small-scale shelters and by not immediately cutting off capacity when the influx of refugees temporarily decreases. In this way, European nations plan for the future. Most importantly, European countries should stop their selective hospitality. The fact that a BBC reporter can passably state on television that it is “very emotional” for him to see “European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed” is evidence enough that something needs to change.