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Ukrainian Refugee Crisis at the Romanian Border: First Responders – The Jesuit Refugee Service Roman

Our colleague Stefan Leonescu, Senior Legal Advisor and Advocacy Expert, gave the following interview to Harvard (Social Impact Review).

He briefly exposed some of the main problems Ukrainian refugees face in Romania.

“We had examples of children hiding under their desks in the classrooms when they heard helicopters or ambulances in Bucharest. But then we realized that some teachers had the same fear responses – they were also affected and needed even more emotional support, since they are first refugees with their individual problems, and then caregivers for the children. Emotional trauma was also evident amongst refugees who we supported to move from collective facilities to individual apartments – they were scared of the idea of living in an unknown community.”

“Many people, if not assisted timely and properly, may be at risk of becoming victims of trafficking as both Ukraine and Romania are among the main producing countries of such victims for their own nationals.”

“One of the main rights attached to it – financial support – has not been provided. The government stated that it cannot estimate the total number of beneficiaries, and even so, such assistance might lead to the collapse of the national social system. This deficiency, together with the lack of funds, affected mainly children who could not receive even the child allowance that should be granted on a non-discriminatory basis, irrespective of the child’s legal status.”

“From the international refugee law perspective, people coming from Ukraine should be considered as war refugees (noticing that some of them came directly from Mariupol or Donbas)…” “The UN Convention should be considered in an extensive way; but so far, the national authorities could not do so.”

“The war continues on. Cities, schools, hospitals are destroyed and the prospects for repatriation are far off. So, all the eyes are turned towards the assistance for integration. The authorities’ long-term response seems to be related to a national strategy comprising of six areas of intervention; however, it is still under bureaucratic debates. And so people have to wait without clear prospects or information. The lack of information is prolonging their trauma as the future becomes more unsettled.”

“The organizations providing assistance are forced to work without clear data, piloting or doing small scale interventions for smaller groups at local levels. Various practices on integration (either good or bad) have been developed, while refugees are still looking for solutions, a decent life, or at least not be forced to return if they are not willing. Their story continues, rescued from war and waiting to get both general and tailored support in finding long-term housing, jobs, education for children, possibility to learn the Romanian language etc., and hopefully as soon as possible to reunite with their fathers, who are still fighting for their liberty.”

“Funds for integration have turned out to be insufficient and some of the refugees preferred to repatriate. Therefore, a prompt response is still required from organizations that have the necessary experience in offering support for integration. Unfortunately, sometimes delays, coordination issues or demands for an exact scaling up of any intervention may have a negative impact towards humanitarian interventions.”

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