Ukrainian refugees in Belgium face months of waiting for protection status

City of Antwerp struggles to process applications of refugees, leaving people without financial aid, right to work.

Ukrainian refugees in Belgium face months of waiting for protection status

It takes months for Ukrainian refugees to get an appointment with authorities in the Belgian city of Antwerp, leaving them without social support or the right to work, local media reported on Friday. 

Ukrainian refugees have to face “a mountain of red tape” and wait for months to have their protection claims processed, the Brussels Time wrote based on a report of the Flemish television channel VRT News.

Under the EU temporary protection directive, Ukrainian nationals, their family members, and residents of the country are entitled to protection in any EU member state, including Belgium.

The protection scheme grants the right to work, residency, education, social allowances, and medical assistance for at least a year with a possible extension of two years.

In order to enjoy these rights, the refugees need to be registered at the local authorities but Antwerp struggles to process the applications after over 3,000 Ukrainian refugees arrived in the Flemish city.

The media reports featured a Ukrainian man and his family who got the first appointment to June 7.

Until then, the man “can’t get financial help for his family, he can’t go get a job, and he can’t open a bank account,” they explained.

Belgian host families also complained that the slow administration gets them into a difficult financial situation as their Ukrainian guests cannot get financial support or job without being registered.

Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever refused criticism that his administration was not prepared and blamed the federal government for putting an excessive burden on local communities.

The latest official data on March 25 showed that 25,000 Ukrainian refugees were registered in Belgium.

Over 200,000 Ukrainian asylum seekers have arrived in Belgium, according to estimates.

Over 4.8 million Ukrainians have fled their country since the beginning of the Russian war on Feb. 24, according to the UN refugee agency.

Hüseyin Demir