Jeremy Ferwerda on the Crisis in Ukraine

The UNHCR estimates that 400,000 Ukrainians have already fled the country, with final refugee numbers estimated to approach 5 million. Although Ukrainian citizens have been welcomed with open arms thus far by bordering states, the scale of the population displacement promises to introduce significant tensions over the long run. Two of the destination states --- Poland and Hungary --- vetoed common EU asylum policy in the wake of the Syrian crisis and actively sought to encourage asylum seekers to make their claims within other states. Other states, such as Slovakia and Romania, ultimately accepted few refugees. Despite shared opposition to Russia, these destination countries may lack the physical infrastructure, experience, and political will to host large refugee populations.  

Even so, many Ukrainians are likely to head further West. If granted EU temporary protected status, they will be eligible for jobs and welfare benefits for three years. The resulting demographic and economic shock may plausibly generate a populist backlash. In the wake of receiving over 2.5 million asylum applications in 2015 and 2016, public support for asylum seekers rapidly waned, leading to a surge in populist voting and the re-imposition of border controls between Turkey and the EU. While Ukrainians, as fellow Europeans, benefit from public sympathy in a way that Syrian refugees did not, it is likely that as their return to Ukraine becomes increasingly uncertain, we will see a similar political reaction within hosting countries.  

February 28th