OPEN LETTER CALLING FOR SUPPORT TO FAMILIES IN NEED.
Brussels, 21st March 2022
COFACE Families Europe stands with Ukraine and strongly condemns the military aggression of the Russian Federation
COFACE Families Europe is deeply concerned about the escalating situation in Ukraine and the consequences for the people of Ukraine: families are separated, and children, with or without their parents, find themselves in different communities across Europe. More than 3 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its unprovoked invasion, according to UN refugee agency data on 20th March 2022. Already more than 109 children were killed and many more injured during this war. Through its illegal military actions, Russia is blatantly violating international law and United Nations conventions and is undermining European and global security and stability. Moreover, the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure is a crime.
Many COFACE members are involved in running programmes for the inclusion of refugees, delivering social, housing, education supports needed to welcome families in host communities in the EU. They are mobilising resources as more and more refugees are crossing the borders to neighbouring countries. COFACE is also receiving reports from Ukrainian organisations, especially supporting families of children and persons with disabilities. Some have managed to flee, but many are still in Ukraine for different reasons: lack of information in an accessible format, absence of transport, lack of adapted solutions for persons with severe physical impairments. They face the risk of being left behind. These families are in dire need of a wide range of critical services, food, hygiene products, medicines.
We call on EU leaders to focus on five main priorities:
Ensuring that the support reaches all families in Ukraine who need it. This will require a reinforcement of EU efforts and diplomacy, as well as using different resources including the European Commission’s solidarity platform, but also connecting the dots and building partnerships with organisations on the ground to ensure mobile units fully reach those who are in need of urgent help.
Treat all refugees equally without discrimination. All people fleeing Ukraine must be treated with dignity and allowed to cross the border, regardless of nationality, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or any other background. The same standards of protection should be applied to all persons with the same level of protection needs.
Support civil society efforts through effective European coordination. Countries bordering and close to Ukraine especially need support through effective coordination of the refugee flow, through the involvement of all EU Member States. This also goes through channeling of funds to strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations, including COFACE members, to deliver critical and emergency support in EU countries.
Urgent need for mental and psychological support for children and their families. People fleeing the war are especially mothers and children, and they have suffered multiple shocks – from the killing of their relatives to seeing their life and families fall apart – with negative impacts on their mental and physical well-being. These people require urgent help to rebuild their lives. Sometimes the only possibility to help them is through Ukrainian/Russian-language services – where these are developed as in Lithuania and Latvia, these services should be boosted. In general, we must be careful about not stigmatising Russian-speaking families and refugees.
Put in place long-term solutions for the resilience of families. This is an escalating crisis which NGOs in the COFACE network are mobilising around in the short-term to support families especially in EU countries. But governments must start now to put in place sustainable mid-term and long-term solutions to ensure a smooth transition for the inclusion of refugees. This includes starter packs with access to protection, employment, education (including early childhood education and care), healthcare, digital infrastructure to allow for distance learning of Ukrainian children, family reunification processes, sustainable funding streams to NGOs coordinating inclusion processes, and a consolidation of policies to support families in Europe.
This new crisis shows again that it is by consolidating family support systems, based on a mix of resources, services, and leaves which are accessible to all families without discrimination, that the European Union will be resilient and strong enough to absorb shocks.
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