Germany and Spain are finding it increasingly difficult to support Ukrainian refugees
After Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February 2022, about eight million Ukrainians left their country. Germany is the second country after Poland to receive Ukrainians in exile, more than one million people have found refuge there. In Spain, the government wants to continue supporting those fleeing the war, but some laws for temporary refugees have not been developed.
In Cottbus, Germany, the city is ‘at the end of what it can offer’
The city of Cottbus, located 130 kilometers south of Berlin, is very close to the Polish border. Officials in the city of just under 100,000 say they can no longer accept new refugees because the city has reached the limit of what it can offer. The City Hall welcomes newcomers to its website. Since the beginning of the year, these new arrivals are mostly refugees.
Since the beginning of the year, 1,045 people, mostly Ukrainians, have settled in Cottbus. That’s 300 more than the city can accommodate, explained Jan Glossmann, a spokesman for the municipality. “People turn to us, we take care of them, we give them advice, we guide them, we give them hospitality. We have to look at who works, who can work, what is the status of each person as an asylum seeker.”
“It is clear that we have run out of reception possibilities. We do not want to place them in tent camps. These refugees must be fairly distributed in Europe.”Jan Glossmann, spokesman for Cottbus City Hall
On the Franceinfo website
The situation is in the most elegant schools. Within a few months, 300 Ukrainian children were registered in 30 institutions of Cottbus. Teachers were hired, some of them were among the Ukrainians who came to the city. “This is a lot for a city like Cottbus, which means we need more schools”, explains Uwe Mader, head of school services for the district. “Our classes are overcrowded, sometimes there are not 25, but 30 students. Parents can complain that teaching is suffering. In terms of space and available personnel, we are at an extreme limit.”
Therefore, the city has decided not to accept any more refugees in order not to further saturate schools and medical practices, whose appointment books have been full for several weeks. The city hall wants to welcome them with dignity and to be warm when the winter hardens. And then accompanying families is also complicated: “For a Ukrainian family of two or three, you need a consultant to accompany them in their daily life procedures.”explain Helga Franken, special educator in Cottbus. He fears that he will run out of money to go after Ukrainian refugees. “You have to be especially careful with children. And it’s very complicated because it will never end.”
The warning given by the Cottbus city hall seems to have been heard: the number of refugees in the city has stopped increasing in recent days.
A very specific problem of foreign numbers in Spain
Ukrainian refugees were openly welcomed by the Spanish government. But today some of them are caught up in bureaucracy and end up with this very specific number problem. After living in Spain for seven months, all drivers must unlock their foreign number plates and replace them with Spanish ones, which costs an average of €1,000. A logical measure for someone who has settled, a little less so for people who want to return to their country of origin as soon as possible.
A petition has been published on the Change.org platform [en espagnol] to complain about this situation. It requires an exception, the ability to continue circulation with Ukrainian plates as long as they benefit from the temporary protection status. More than 35,000 signatures have been collected.
The Spanish news site ElConfidencial.com spoke with Margarita Pugacheva, the refugee who started this article. He explains that changing the plates is paradoxical, then when he returns to the country he will again have to replace these Spanish plates with Ukrainian plates. And this shows that other countries, Germany and Poland, have given respite to Ukrainians. ElConfidential.com has questioned the authorized management. The answer, essentially: the law is the law, there’s nothing they can do about it. Violators face a fine of between 200 and 6,000 euros.
As for extending the period of stay in Spain, Ukrainian refugees have no problems with documents, they have started to face economic difficulties. First aid, which has been established for six months, is about to end. Government spokeswoman Isabel Rodriguez announced the executive’s response last month: “We are the fifth country in Europe that receives the most Ukrainian refugees.”
“Spain continues to provide full support to all those fleeing war in its country. Specifically, today we have accepted direct grants of up to 335 million euros to be paid to the main associations dealing with the reception of refugees.Isabel Rodriguez
Spanish government spokesman
Grants were also paid to the regions. This would, of course, allow for a monthly payment of 400 euros per refugee for those who have not yet found a job, and again for a maximum period of six months.