Berlin - People from third countries, who have fled to Germany from the war in Ukraine, often fall through the cracks when it comes to existing support programmes. NGOs and diaspora networks are stepping in.
In a hallway in Berlin, the mood is full of celebration: the keys have been handed over! Finding a place to stay considering the city’s tight housing market is almost impossible. People from third countries who have fled from Ukraine to Germany have no chance to find housing. Marie Sobolewski from the organization “Bridges over Borders” is therefore very happy: “Together with TANG e.V. and a property management company from Berlin, we can offer accommodation to refugees who for weeks have only had temporary accommodation or no accommodation at all – that's a great feeling.”
Precarious situation for third country nationals
More than 287,000 people, who have neither Ukrainian nor EU citizenship, have fled Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion, according to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Many third country nationals are stranded either in Ukraine or in the surrounding countries and find themselves in an extremely precarious situation due to limited local language skills, lack of documents and institutional assistance as well as discrimination. A recent IOM survey, in which more than 100 third country nationals from Ukraine in Germany participated, shows: 66% of the respondents said that they faced issues en-route, 56% reported discrimination and racism.
A group of volunteers worldwide
Jacky Kuhn, founder of Kenyan Women in Germany (KWIG), knows the stories behind these figures. Together with other diaspora representatives, she has been supporting third country nationals during and after their flight from Ukraine. Shortly after the war began, she made her phone number available. "Parents of students called me from their home countries. It was a nightmare. I received calls from Tanzania, from Kenya - as a parent it was painful to imagine that it could be my daughter, stranded, unreachable," recalls Jacky Kuhn of the beginning of the war. As a result, they formed a worldwide group of volunteers who coordinated virtually, collected resources, and provided those in need - primarily students - with the most basic necessities.
Support for students
Most of the students from third countries who have come to Germany would like to continue their studies here, but are often unable to do so, for example if they do not have 10,000 euros in a blocked account. “These students have already paid for their education in Ukraine, which has cost their families a fortune. We know young people in their last semester of medical school who now have to return empty-handed," Jacky Kuhn tells us. Right now, it is not clear which prospects students and other third country nationals will have after August 31. Therefore, various organizations are asking that third country nationals from Ukraine will also be granted temporary protection, so that they can stay in Germany beyond August 2022 to complete their studies or continue taking online courses at their Ukrainian universities. "We are waiting to see what August brings. We will continue to knock on doors. Whenever I see a possibility, I ask fellow citizens to sponsor a student so that they can finish their studies," says Jacky Kuhn.
Diaspora provides crucial help
Since the beginning of the war, TANG e.V. and Bridges over Borders have been providing active support for people coming from Ukraine and have so far picked up hundreds of people from the border areas, helped them find accommodation, assisted them in administrative procedures, in finding language courses, jobs and places to study in Germany. Dr. Sylvie Nantcha, President of TANG e.V., is particularly proud that the Federal Association for African Diaspora Networks was able to organize 18 buses in an extremely short time to pick up a total of over 600 people from the Polish and Slovakian borders. "It is important to me that we as TANG stand up for all people in need," emphasises Dr. Sylvie Nantcha. IOM is also committed to helping third country nationals who have fled to Germany by connecting civil society organisations, diaspora groups and local authorities to jointly find solutions and promoting existing support, such as the housing project for refugees in Berlin in cooperation with Bridges over Borders and TANG e.V.
Concrete need for action
The commitment of volunteers and grassroot organizations shows that there is a need for improvement. While third country nationals coming from Ukraine can in principle apply for temporary protection established by the EU Directive and can receive social services, there are known cases where support was withheld, because they do not have Ukrainian citizenship. This should be addressed through providing information and trainings for all the actors involved, including employees of authorities responsible for the reception and registration of refugees from Ukraine. The IOM sample survey also shows that in addition to the possibility of staying, respondents need better access to education, language courses and financial support. To improve their situation in the long term and to be able to provide targeted protection and support, it is necessary to conduct representative surveys which show the concrete needs of all third country nationals who have fled Ukraine, including groups such as LGBTIQ+.