Oxfam Ireland Homepage
  • 3 min read
  • Published: 3rd March 2022
  • Press Release by Christine Bale

“We are at a turning point for Europe…” Oxfam Ireland’s reaction to historic decision on EU Temporary Protection Directive

Today, EU migration ministers agreed to activate the Temporary Protection Directive for people fleeing the crisis in Ukraine. The directive will afford those fleeing access to a residence permit for up to three years along with access to education and employment in any EU country. 

In just one week, more than a million people have fled Ukraine into Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and surrounding countries. The number is only expected to rise sharply in the following weeks. 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, said:
“The significance of this moment for Europe cannot be underestimated. The Commission’s decision offers a direct lifeline to people fleeing from danger in Ukraine. It also kick-starts a solidarity mechanism that asks all EU countries to share the responsibility for hosting them. This includes Ireland as we opted in to the directive in 2003. 

“However, the European Union has a particularly poor track record on responsibility sharing. Since 2015, the EU and its member states have consistently failed to agree on any type of mandatory responsibility sharing mechanism which has resulted in a small number of countries hosting the majority of people on the move.  

“Right now, it is impossible to expect Ukraine’s immediate neighbours to bear the responsibility of hosting over a million people, let alone the likelihood of so many more to come. All EU member states need to step up and take responsibility.  

“In 2015, when refugees fled to Europe to escape conflict in Syria and elsewhere, Ireland voluntarily opted in to relocate asylum seekers from Greece to Ireland, showing solidarity with that country and the people forced to seek refuge there. We welcome the fact that through today’s decision to activate the Temporary Protection Directive, Ireland is showing that same solidarity to people fleeing Ukraine. We would also urge the Government to proactively promote a permanent relocation mechanism that contributes to this kind of solidarity on a constant basis, including by ensuring that asylum seekers are hosted among EU member states instead of being forced to stay in the first country they arrive in.

“In the past years, we have seen asylum seekers’ rights being systematically ignored, a crackdown on NGO workers who are giving them aid and support, overcrowded and unsuitable camps, and often violent pushbacks. This is a reality of recent European history that we cannot see repeated. 

“We are therefore at a turning point for Europe. It is not possible to remedy the wrongs from the past, but we can do much better in the future. EU countries must implement today’s decision immediately and in full. We need real and meaningful responsibility sharing across all of Europe, ensuring that people have decent and dignified conditions to live in and can rebuild their lives in safety. It also means keeping borders open to all people fleeing violence, persecution and war regardless of the country they came from.” 


CONTACT: Alice Dawson-Lyons, Oxfam Ireland | Mobile: +353 (0) 83 198 1869 | Email: alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org

  • Oxfam spokespeople are available to comment. 
  • The EU's current asylum rules state that refugees must apply for asylum in the first EU country they arrive. This system collapsed in 2015 when millions of people fled to Europe seeking safety. 
  • The Temporary Protection Directive from 2001 has never been triggered before. It is an exceptional measure to provide immediate and temporary protection to displaced persons, and is applied when the standard asylum system is struggling to cope with a mass influx of people needing protection. The Directive obliges all EU member states to provide minimum protection, including a residency permit for up to 3 years, access to employment, accommodation, social welfare, education, etc. The solidarity mechanism in the Directive is based on a voluntary offer from states and the consent of the person concerned. Read more here more about it.
  • Read our 2021 report: "Tipping the Scales: the role of responsibility and solidarity sharing in the situation on the Greek islands". It details how failed EU policies and the shirking of responsibilities resulted in the abysmal situation in Greece, and how the current proposals replicate these failed policies and allow for the same shirking of responsibility.  
  • Read our reaction to the crisis in Ukraine: “Protection of civilians in Ukraine conflict.”