The Netherlands prepares for Ukrainian refugees, ‘our neighbours’, says minister

A soldier walks past Ukrainian armored vehicles blocked a street in Kyiv. Photo: Efrem Lukatsky AFP

Officials in the Netherlands are looking at what can be done to help Ukrainian refugees both closer to Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe now that hundreds of thousands of people are on the move following the Russian invasion.

Ukrainian nationals are free to travel within the EU for a maximum of 90 days a year without a visa but that will be extended in the Netherlands, asylum minister Erik van der Burg told the NRC in an interview.

‘They can stay with family and friends, in a hotel or other location which they can reach independently,’ he said. ‘And if that does not work out they can report to use and we will offer them accommodation.’

The Netherlands has already identified locations which can be used to house people on a temporary basis, he said after the weekly cabinet meeting, but declined to go into details.

‘The moment providing accommodation becomes an issue, I am sure the Dutch population and therefore the local authorities will play their part,’ he said. It is about ‘being ready for our neighbours,’ he said.

On Thursday, prime minister Mark Rutte had said the Netherlands would look at what it could do for Ukrainian refugees ‘within existing agreements and frameworks.’

Refugee groups

A team from Dutch refugee agency Stichting Vluchteling is traveling to the Polish border with Ukraine on Saturday to assess the situation on the ground. Some 30,000 people are already thought to have crossed into Poland.

‘These are our fellow Europeans, these are people who live in our neighbouring countries,’ foundation director Tineke Ceelen said. ‘We are always talking about providing help in the region, so now is the time to get working on it.’

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