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EU agrees to offer protection to Ukraine refugees

Brussels: The EU on Thursday agreed to approve temporary protection for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine — so far numbered at one million — while also setting up a humanitarian hub in Romania.

The moves by the European Union came in parallel to its sanctions on Russia imposed in successive waves over the course of the invasion, now in its eighth day.

In Washington, the administration of President Joe Biden announced a similar move, granting temporary protected status to Ukrainians already in the country.

That means they can remain in the US and the threat of deportation is lifted.

EU interior ministers agreed in a Brussels meeting to activate a temporary protection mechanism drawn up two decades ago — in response to the wars in the former Yugoslavia — but never used.

European home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, who attended the meeting, tweeted that it was a “historic decision”.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said: “The European Union will accord temporary protection to all those fleeing the war in Ukraine.” Both later told a media conference that the decision was unanimously taken by the ministers representing the EU’s 27 nations.

Darmanin said the temporary protection would apply to Ukrainians and their family members crossing into the EU, as well as anyone who had prior refugee status in Ukraine.

Johansson said there were many foreigners, including students, who had been in Ukraine when the Russian assault started, and stated: “They are not covered by Temporary Protection directives, but they are being helped out of Ukraine.”

“The significance of this moment for Europe cannot be underestimated,” the Oxfam charity said in a statement of the EU’s decision, calling it “a turning point for Europe”.

It said the EU protection mechanism “offers a direct lifeline to people fleeing from danger in Ukraine” and now “all EU member states need to chip in and take responsibility”.

With political agreement reached, it was expected to come into force within days, once the EU legislation is finalised.