How did cities welcome displaced people from Ukraine?

Many cities throughout the European Union hosted people fleeing Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The EU currently faces the largest displacement of people in Europe since World War II. Since February 2022, over seven million people came to the EU. The arrival of such large numbers of people thrust cities and local governments to the forefront of the EU and its Member States’ relief work. This short publication provides a snapshot of cities’ initiatives to address this humanitarian crisis.

The EU’s rapid activation of the Temporary Protection Directive enabled displaced people from Ukraine to settle in different Member States. This allowed them to find work and access to social welfare, healthcare and education.

Cities are ideally placed to support and integrate people from Ukraine. This is particularly due to the cities’ social infrastructure and job opportunities, as the European Parliament Study on “Cities and the Ukrainian refugees” highlights.  

To better understand what local authorities are doing, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) approached selected cities in the EU.

The Agency consulted with cities that actively promote fundamental rights in the context of FRA’s work with Human Rights Cities.

Several cities told FRA what they currently do to facilitate access to housing, education, healthcare, employment and social services for people who fled Ukraine. The information covers the cities’ responses from February to July 2022.

The cities covered are: Barcelona, Budapest, Cologne, Ghent, Gdansk, Lund, Nuremberg, Salzburg, Utrecht and Vienna.

They often offer centralised access to assistance and information. This one-stop-shop approach provides access to accommodation and housing, food, healthcare, education, employment and social support to a variety of people fleeing Ukraine.

Most are women, children, older people, people with disabilities and people with mental health problems.

The cities’ initiatives were complemented by a large wave of solidarity from volunteers, civil society and faith-based organisations, and businesses.

Map of cities' initiatives

Cities' listing


© Ajuntament de Barcelona, 2023
The city of Barcelona set up a social emergency centre, the Barcelona Social Emergency and Urgent Care Centre (CUESB). It provides displaced people from Ukraine access to accommodation and other services. Examples include a locker service, areas for children, a translation service or assistance for pets.

The centre also supports those who stay with friends and relatives in the city. It issues pre-paid cards to people staying in private homes, to help them buy food, clothing and medicine until they are granted social benefits by the State.

The centre is open 24-hour a day, seven days a week and is accessible to people with reduced mobility.

© Ajuntament de Barcelona, 2023
Between April and July 2022, the centre assisted over 9,800 people. It avoided interfering with (regular) social assistance procedures. It also complemented existing State and civil society organisations’ support initiatives.

The centre drew on the experience of the Barcelona Social Emergency and Emergencies Centre (CUESB). This is the primary centre for people who require immediate psychosocial assistance. It also took on board feedback from civil society organisations, other cities and regions, national actors, EU and international organisations.

Complementary information:



Source: Budapest helps website
© Municipality of Budapest, 2023. All rights reserved.
At the start of Russia’s war, Budapest immediately addressed the need for short-term accommodation and provided meals for refugees. As it became clear that the war was going to last longer, it was critical for the Municipality to cooperate and to have access to information to be able to help those seeking long-term refuge. The following initiatives targeted these areas.

The municipal authorities relied on data analysis to guide its response. The municipality co-hosted a “Cities, Data, and Refugee Needs: A Workshop on the Ukrainian Crisis” workshop on 27-28 June 2022. It brought together 40 experts from the city administration, researchers, civil society organisations, private sector technology and telecommunications companies, and international organisations.

The discussions helped identify four priorities for action: accommodation, jobs, health and education. They also harmonised needs assessments.

The discussion also explored the implications for Budapest of the potential long-term presence of displaced people from Ukraine in the city.

The workshop highlighted the joint commitment of participants towards evidence-based decision-making. It also demonstrated the good cooperation between all actors involved in the exercise. A report of the workshop is available online.

This initiative contributes to Budapest’s efforts to support the reception and integration of displaced people from Ukraine as part of “Budapest Helps!”. It was developed in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Budapest Helps! acts as Information and Community Centre to help and support the integration and wellbeing of displaced people. For instance, it provides access to Hungarian language classes, early childhood development support and more.

By the summer of 2022, an estimated 30,000 displaced people from Ukraine lived in Budapest.

Complementary information:


The municipality of Cologne set up a reception centre. It offered direct support to displaced people from Ukraine at their main place of arrival, the central train station.

At the reception centre, they had access to food (including pet food), beverages and personal care products. The centre also offered areas allowing people with small children to rest.

Volunteers mainly provided assistance at the reception centre. Professional language mediators supported and also helped coordinate the volunteers. Municipal staff provided information on accommodation, schools and social support in Ukrainian and Russian.

By July 2022, around 12,000 displaced people from Ukraine lived in the city. Regular exchanges between the city, volunteers and professional mediators enabled the city to better respond to needs. Since July, an external sponsor helps run the centre.

Complementary information:


In Gdansk, the city set up the 'Gdansk Card Helps Ukraine'. This card facilitates access to accommodation, lunch boxes, clothing, school supplies for children in primary schools and free public transport. The card is based on the existing card for residents called “I am from Gdansk”. Displaced people from Ukraine can acquire the card at the municipal offices, the stadium or the tourist office.

The card helps the municipality better understand the demographic characteristics of people coming to the city. It contains basic information on their gender, age, number of children, etc through information collected during registration.

This initiative is part of the municipality’s wider effort to support the reception and integration of displaced people from Ukraine. This covers, for instance, access to basic needs, education and housing, psychological and legal assistance, integration initiatives through community, artistic and language training.

It also covered awareness raising activities such as the “16 Days” campaign about violence against women and girls. The municipality’s efforts drew on the Gdansk Model of Immigrant Integration released in 2016.

By the summer of 2022, the city hosted around 115,000 displaced people from Ukraine. In July an estimated 70,000 displaced people still lived in the city.

Complementary information:


Ghent organised and coordinated access to private accommodation in response to the arrival of displaced people fleeing Ukraine. This entailed screening host families, match-making displaced people and providing information on how to get a resident permit, financial aid, how to access jobs or schools, etc.

The municipality also carries out “home visits” to take stock of how the cohabitation is going, and to answer any questions the guests and the hosts might have.

The staff speak English, Dutch, Russian and Ukrainian.

The initiative responded to the need to support integration in the city. Living with host families facilitates close links with local communities.

Using private accommodation for hosting also helped address the lack of available public housing.

By the summer of 2022, around 205 families provided accommodation to 500 displaced people from Ukraine. Initial feedback showed that this approach helped speed up their integration, while ensuring that host families are well informed of the potential challenges they could face before accepting them into their homes.

In 2022, the city started preparatory works on an emergency village for Ukrainian refugees in Oostakker. The Flemish government's Facility Services Agency provides 200 housing units for 600 refugees from Ukraine. The construction will start in January 2023. The first residents are expected to move there in April 2023.

Complementary information:


Source: Lund Municipality
Lund opened the Mötesplats Ukraina reception centre to facilitate access to social support for those fleeing Ukraine. The municipality set up structural elements (e.g. location, furniture, computers) and provides staff.

Community managers’ run the centre’s programme. They speak English and Ukrainian. They are financed through grants and recruited in cooperation with civil society organisations.

These community managers help gather timely and up-to-date information on people’s needs regarding accommodation, schooling, financial support or their social life.

The centre offers a safe space, a programme of activities, as well as opportunities to connect with the host community and get practical information about life in Sweden.

Views from civil society organisations, faith-based groups and city networks contributed to the development of the centre and its work.

Complementary information:


Nuremberg’s reception centre was the central support and information point for displaced people from Ukraine. In one central location they could access accommodation, the employment agency, schools, social support, psychological support and counselling, volunteers’ assistance, as well as a food bank.

Through the use of the Integreat app, Nuremberg provides direct and easy access to a wide range of information, such as on how to apply for social benefits, as well as on cultural events and recreational activities, German language classes, sport clubs etc. The app also facilitates access to private accommodation.

By July 2022, around 8,500 displaced people from Ukraine had come to Nuremberg. This was partly due to the pre-existing Ukrainian community in the city, many of whom provided accommodation to relatives and friends. The reception centre is now closed due to the considerable drop in the number of displaced people arriving from Ukraine.

Complementary information:


Source: Stadt-Salzburg © 2023 Magistrat der Stadt Salzburg
The city of Salzburg worked in close cooperation with the Ukraine Centre of Salzburg and other local actors, such as the Red Cross, to organise the reception and integration of displaced people from Ukraine.

It held weekly meetings to facilitate exchanges of information and to swiftly resolve any problems. The municipality provided access to housing, schools, childcare, healthcare, leisure, language courses, social support and information on people’s rights.

Particular emphasis was placed on providing access to jobs. This was done by cooperating with the local employment agency and the Austrian Chamber of Commerce to identify job needs. Salzburg also worked with businesses and employers’ organisations to simplify the rules, and facilitated the matching process for available jobs.

Over 10,000 displaced people from Ukraine had arrived in Salzburg by July 2022. Around 2,000 were still living in the city by then.

Complementary information:


The Ukrainian reception hub in Utrecht centralises access to first information, public services, jobs and accommodation. The Ukrainian Reception Hub was located near the central bus and train stations to help displaced people from Ukraine quickly access emergency shelters in hotels, private houses or shelters in refurnished buildings or ships. These temporary shelters were later replaced by longer-term accommodation.

The displaced people can receive a EUR 60 allowance per person per week, financed by the national government and administered through money cards by the city of Utrecht. The city sheltered around 1400 Ukrainian people, mostly women and children. Around 73% of them have a paid job. The Utrecht Ukrainian team also facilitates children’s access to schools, and access to a specialised structure for sick children and their relatives.

Utrecht is a welcoming and human rights city. The city’s inclusive policy, Plan Einstein, is well known. This is an innovative and inclusive integration model that involves asylum seekers and local residents within the neighbourhood. It aims to create a space for refugees and local people to learn, work and live together. It offers a range of services such as language courses, music, volunteering, cultural activities as well as the possibility to develop entrepreneurial skills.

Launched in 2016, Plan Einstein was piloted under the EU Urban Innovative Actions. It has a budget of over EUR 2,700,000 financed as an Urban Innovative Action by the European Regional Development Fund. Plan Einstein is now a structural policy for the reception of refugees in Utrecht.

Complementary information:


In Vienna the fight against human trafficking is one of the city’s human rights priorities. NGOs from neighbouring countries had alerted the city’s Human Rights Office about the suspicion of human trafficking at Austria’s borders. As a result, the city stepped up advice at registration centres on the risks of human trafficking. It also distributes information in Ukrainian and Russian on how to access support organisations. The city also set up a 24-hours emergency helpline, which is now also available in Ukrainian and Russian.

The success of this work is due to key factors such as a quick reaction and good cooperation between all relevant actors at the federal, regional and local levels, as well as with civil society organisations.

Efforts on preventing and combating human trafficking contribute to the work of the Austrian task force against human trafficking. The Austrian federal government established the task force in 2004 to coordinate and intensify Austrian anti-trafficking measures.

Complementary information:

The Agency is grateful to the cities that provided the information about their work.

Follow up work by FRA

Findings from FRA’s research into the responses of local authorities to ensure access to temporary protection rights in 12 Member States will follow this publication. The results are due out in the third quarter of 2023.