EU member to cut off aid to Ukrainian refugees
Most of the Ukrainian refugees in Poland are able to earn a living, the government believes, so it intends to cut its aid to them, an official announced on Monday. Four months of assistance is enough, according to a high-level politician from the ruling PiS party as cited by the media.
Poland has taken in over 3.5 million people fleeing from Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian military operation in February. Warsaw offered a number of benefits, but is now planning to cut back. Starting this month, refugees will not receive free tickets for public transportation, and in July, many of them will no longer receive a daily allowance (around $9.33 per day) for food and housing.
The decision was announced on Monday by Deputy Interior Minister Pawel Szefernaker during an interview with TVP Info. The official said the government will no longer pay Ukrainians who are able to provide for themselves. Exceptions will be made for people who have legitimate reasons to not get a job in Poland, like those with disabilities, pregnant women, or mothers taking care of multiple children.
He noted that the number of Ukrainian refugees in Poland has dropped since mid-May, when departures surged past arrivals.
Ukrainians seeking employment in Poland can do so and many have, an unnamed high-ranking politician from the ruling PiS party told the newspaper Rzeczpоspolita, commenting on the policy change. According to him, the government wants to nudge others to do the same. He said that four months of assistance gives refugees sufficient time to adapt.
The newspaper talked to officials from several regions of Poland, and some are skeptical about the decision. Jan Golba, the mayor of Muszyna, a town in the south of the country, said the one-month deadline is unrealistic, and called for an extension of the aid by at least one month. Golba said his community hosts 400 Ukrainians, down from a peak of 1,300, and only 60 of them found jobs.
“Anyone who wants to work will find employment. And whoever does not want to – nothing will force him to do so,” the mayor said.
Piotr Dlugosz, a researcher of the Ukrainian community in Poland, told Rzeczpоspolita that the loss of benefits will not be a major blow to most of them. Over 70% of the refugees have their own means for living, he said, adding that he expects many aid recipients to simply return to Ukraine after it is cut off by the host nations – which would benefit Ukraine itself, he noted.
“If this young and dynamic group with high human capital does not come back, it will be difficult for Ukrainians to create a strong and modern state,” Dlugosz said.
Warsaw previously called on the EU to give it more money to cover the cost of helping the refugees. Poland needs billions of euros, but the European Commission offered €144.6 million, Szefernaker told Polish media last week.