How did the Ukrainian war change European approaches to the migration issue?

Translated by Farah El Desouky

Given the recent events on the European continent, particularly the Russian war on Ukraine, which forced a large number of Ukrainians to flee to neighboring countries, A major wave of European solidarity with Ukrainian refugees has emerged, particularly in Poland and Moldavia. European capitals have expressed their willingness to accept a large number of them and have offered them additional assistance. Why change European engagement with migrants if policies are completely different for migrants from outside Europe, particularly those from Africa and the Middle East? What policies have France and the United Kingdom implemented in response to African migrants?

War and the ramifications of migration:

The Russia-Ukraine war triggered Europe’s fastest mass exodus in at least three decades, comparable to the Balkan Wars of the 1990s and the large displacement movement that followed WWII. As of the end of March 2022, approximately 3 million refugees had fled Ukraine since the start of the war. This means that the number of Ukrainians entering European Union Member States is ten times higher than the one-week record for migrants entering Europe during the 2015 migration crisis, and the number of refugees recorded by the UN during the first 11 days of the Kosovo War in 1999 has dwindled.

The European Union decided in record time – a week after the start of the Russian offensive – to grant Ukrainians an interim system of protection, to share responsibilities among the Union’s States regarding the Ukrainian migrant crisis, and a number of European States indicated their willingness to accept Ukrainian refugees without visas, given Ukraine’s geographical proximity to European States and the impact of the war in Ukraine.

While European States have shown broad solidarity with Ukrainian migrants, some have shown clear intolerance and prejudice towards non-European refugees and asylum seekers, revealing Western duplication and crude discrimination in dealing with Ukrainian migrants, refugees, and others from outside Europe, as evidenced by some European States’ policies.

In the context of European States’ attitudes and reactions as part of efforts to control the flow of illegal refugees, it is clear that both Britain and France were for it.

Britain’s migrant policies:

In light of the recent migrant crisis, the British Government has tended to legislate new laws, such as the Citizenship and Borders Bill, to facilitate the United Kingdom’s sending of refugees to another country until their asylum claims are decided, despite the UK signing international treaties to guarantee refugees’ rights, such as the United Nations Refugee Convention, which prohibits the sending of persons to a country where they face risks to life or restrictions on telecommunications.

However, London has launched a pilot program to relocate people it believes have entered the UK illegally to other countries. British Prime Minister Johnson stated this when presenting his plan. The Home Office believes that the current asylum law will be sufficient to implement Britain’s plan to send refugees to Rwanda, and that the inability to accurately identify savings should not prevent action.


According to the British plan, refugees will be transferred from the United Kingdom to Rwanda, where they will be able to apply for a right of residence. In mid-April 2022, the latter announced that it had signed a multi-million-dollar agreement with Britain to host asylum seekers and migrants in the UK as part of the British government’s plan attempt to eliminate illegal immigration in the country.

This plan, however, was widely criticized as a violation of international law by the United Nations. The UNHCR described the attempt to “transfer responsibility” for refugee status claims as “unacceptable,” the Refugee Board said the proposal would fail, and Amnesty International UK called the plan a “shockingly bad idea.”

Refugee organizations criticized the Johnson Plan as cruel, questioning its cost and effectiveness, in addition to concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record, and demanding that more than 160 charities and activist groups cancel the plan, while opposition parties and some Conservative Party members criticized the plan.

France’s migrant policies:

The issue of immigration and asylum has figured prominently among the candidates for the French presidency whose elections are taking place this term, particularly among those who will run in the runoff: The outgoing French President, Emmanuel Macron, and Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far-right Rassemblement national (RNR) party, were clearly unequivocal in their visions of all important policies to be pursued on the issue of migrants, as follows:

(*) Macron policy: Emmanuel Macron, the founder of the “Republic Forward” party, emphasized a few brief points on immigration in his program. Macron’s electoral agenda on immigration was presented in response to the issue of migration. Furthermore, under the heading “Republic of Rights and Duties,” it is critical to better “control” migration. “Living in France means being a part of a nation. In the eyes of the law, we are all equal, regardless of our origin, religion, sexual orientation, or appearance “.

However, Macron emphasized that granting a long-term residence permit would be conditional on an exam determining a person’s level of French speaking. In addition to his involvement in the labor market, Macron believes that the application of this would be through a “test” for each company with more than 5,000 employees. To determine the proportion of migrants among its workforce, the results of which will be made public and accessible to all; He also addressed the topic of housing, which was one of the most difficult challenges faced by migrants in searching for renters, and promised financial assistance to tenants; Macron also wants to strengthen European border protection, and he wants to establish a “border force” to strengthen control of French borders, as well as reform the “Schengen” system.

These policies reflect Macron’s preference for assimilating migrants into French society while preserving their identities. In his brief address to his electoral complex in Paris, he said, “France accommodates everyone and respects their food habits, especially Jews and Muslims,” in what some saw as an attempt to enlist far-left candidates.

(*) Marine Le Pen’s policy: the candidate of the far-right Rassemblement national party was assigned to her election program under the heading “Immigration control,” consisting of approximately 40 pages, it criticized migration policies and made proposals to “defend the identity and heritage of France.” s illegal entry into French territory and the failure to regularize the status of “illegal immigrants,” Expulsion of aliens in violation of French law, with incl.

Le Pen also intends to win the French elections; to revoke residence permits for foreigners who have not worked in the previous 12 months, in addition to tightening the conditions for granting French nationality; and to revoke the right to acquire French nationality on the basis of birth by allowing a child born in France (to a French parent) to automatically acquire French nationality upon reaching majority. ; Le Pen wants to limit migrants’ access to monthly material assistance, in addition to reducing material assistance and eliminating medical care for migrants. Priority will also be given to French citizens in the labor market and in obtaining social housing.

Clearly, presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has a negative attitude toward many African countries’ issues. Combating terrorism and migration are among them, as it believes that current laws in France must become more stringent toward migrants, demanding that stricter policies be implemented toward these migrants and that immigration be closed to them in order to protect French identity. Previously, in response to disagreements between France and Algeria, Le Pen launched a violent attack on the latter, demanding that Algerians be denied visas and their bank transfers be halted.

There appears to be a clear difference between Macron and Le Pen on the issue of migration, despite the fact that the former made a few brief remarks on the subject; he viewed it as resolute in the face of the immigration dossier, but it remained less severe, and contrary to what was put forward by the far-right candidate Le Pen, where the issue of migration was an essential part of her electoral program, and in which she spoke of forcing migrants to abandon their habits associated with migration.

What can be concluded from the foregoing is that the war in Ukraine has compelled European Union member states to alter their policies toward non-European migrants. At a time when European efforts to contain Ukraine’s migrant crisis have been combined, more stringent policies toward migrants outside of Europe have been pursued, indicating a clear duplication in dealing with this issue. “In Africa,” which is primarily associated with humanitarian crises and an increase in poverty and suffering in African countries, and which is likely to be exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

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