FRA 2023 Fleeing Ukraine Survey Cover

Fleeing Ukraine: Displaced people’s experiences in the EU

Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine triggered scenes not seen in Europe for decades. It has since caused death, immense destruction, and unspeakable suffering. It also set in motion a mass movement of people not seen since World War II. To protect them, the EU activated the Temporary Protection Directive for the first time. In doing so, all EU Member States must offer protection to those displaced from Ukraine.

This report presents the findings of FRA’s 2022 online survey of displaced people from Ukraine. It covers the 10 EU countries that host a large number of people under temporary protection – Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain. Some 14,685 respondents shared their views of arriving and settling in the EU. These provide a unique insight into their experiences and feelings, including those of violence.

The survey findings also illustrate the challenges inherent in applying an instrument of temporary protection to a situation that is likely to have a long-term impact on people and our societies.

In this report:

  1. Arriving in the EU - Humanitarian aid and provision of information
  2. Settling in the EU - Residence and legal status
  3. Housing
  4. Education
  5. Employment
  6. Income and entitlement to social benefits
  7. Health
  8. Experiences of violence and access to specialised support
Key findings

The main findings of the survey are as follows.

  • Most respondents did not face difficulties when travelling into and within the European Union (EU). Most feel that they received enough information on their rights and the services available to them under the Temporary Protection Directive.
  • While one third of respondents applied for asylum in their host country, the great majority applied for temporary protection. There are significant differences in this regard between Member States.
  • One in three respondents ultimately want to return to Ukraine. A similar proportion would prefer to remain in their host country. One quarter of respondents remain undecided.
  • A large number of displaced people have entered the EU. It is not surprising that the majority, six in 10 respondents, were living in private accommodations at the time of the survey. More than half of these were paying for this, in part or in full. For many, their accommodation is far from ideal. They often lack privacy and need to share a kitchen or bathroom with strangers. Many adult respondents with dependent children were living in housing where the children had no access to a quiet or separate room where they could study.
  • Less than half of those who were in education shortly before fleeing Ukraine have continued their education in the host country. The language barrier is the main reason for this. Four in 10 respondents had not attended a language course in their host country since their arrival. Addressing this issue will require more opportunities for displaced people to attend language courses. Almost two thirds of children availed themselves of online education provided by schools or universities in Ukraine, or taught themselves using materials and other support from Ukraine.
  • About two thirds of those who had been in paid work in Ukraine before 24 February 2022 found a job in the host country. Yet two thirds of working-age respondents were not in paid work at the time of the survey. The main barriers to accessing employment were not knowing the language of the host country well enough and caring responsibilities, particularly for women. It is of particular concern that three in 10 respondents have experienced some form of exploitation at work.
  • Financial issues are of concern to every second respondent aged 16 years or over. These respondents report that their household has some or great difficulty making ends meet in the host country. Just over one quarter of adult respondents can cover their basic day-to-day living expenses through their work. Only about half of adult respondents say that the authorities have assisted them financially since their arrival.
  • Only one in three respondents consider themselves to be in good or very good health. Every second respondent reports longstanding illness or health problems. Half of respondents aged 16+ faced problems accessing healthcare because of language difficulties or because they did not know where to go or whom to contact.
  • Every second respondent stated that they had often or always felt downhearted and depressed since arriving in the host country. However, about two thirds of respondents feel optimistic about the future. One in three feels part of the community in their host country.
  • This optimism is in spite of the high proportion of respondents who were exposed to traumatic experiences in Ukraine or the EU. Only about one third of the respondents have sought medical or psychological support since their arrival in the EU. About one quarter of that group have not received the support they sought. Worryingly, about half of the younger children (aged 12–15) who participated in the survey report having difficulty sleeping and/or concentrating, a loss of self-confidence or feeling vulnerable.