Ukrainian refugees: What’s next?

December 8, 2022

“Housing, education, and health care are particularly problematic right now”, says Masha Volynsky in this week’s #Forum2000online Chat. Ms. Volynsky, from the Agency for Migration and Adaption AMIGA, Czechia, joined Hrishabh Sandilya, a Senior Programme Manager with the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), to talk about the key issues that policymakers, philanthropy and civil society should consider as they continue to support Ukrainian refugees in Central and Eastern Europe. 

According to Masha Volynsky, you will learn that: 

  • Amiga is a migrant founded and a migrant-led organization based in Prague. It works through volunteering and other sort of participatory community methods to improve integration of migrants in Czech society. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Amiga has focused its efforts on providing mental health and psychosocial support to refugees.
  • Housing, education and health care are particularly problematic right now:
    • Housing: This is the most pressing issue now that winter is coming. This needs to be addressed better. A greater involvement of commercial actors is required.
    • Education: Many Ukrainian refugee children entered School in September, but not all of them. There are not enough places for certain age groups and for children with special education needs. Not all schools are well prepared for a large number of students that do not speak Czech.
    • Healthcare: There is a great lack of doctors both for adults and for children. There are long waiting lines for specialized health care. For many refugees, waiting for two or three months to see a neurologist or another specialist is very dangerous. It is urgent to pay greater attention to their mental health.
  • There are cyclical movements of refugees currently between Prague and Central Eastern Europe and Ukraine. Sometimes, for example, grandparents come with daughters and grandchildren in the beginning. Then many of them left in the spring and summer and now some are coming back. Parents, not having found jobs and in order to maintain their family budgets, have to surprisingly return to Ukraine, leaving their children behind with other caretakers. This creates instability for the families, administrative problems and chaos for the generally slow-moving bureaucratic machine. The situation leads to skepticism from the side of the Czech authorities.
  • These movements back and forth, separations of families, and uncertainty about the future puts a great strain on mental health of refugees, which poses a problem for their potential integration.
  • There are people coming with post-traumatic stress symptoms. Some are coming from places that are being bombed but also from areas that spent months under Russian occupation. This requires a long therapeutic process, and sometimes psychiatric interventions as well. Psychiatric help is available and the quality is very good, but there are not enough specialists.
  • There was a great and, in many ways, very successful effort to welcome and to settle refugees in the Czech Republic. There may be more refugees coming, people that are in a desperate situation right now in Ukraine. It is important to know what was done well and what can be improved.

The interview was recorded on November 29, 2022. For more information, you can read the policy paper “The Way Forward for Ukrainian Refugees in CEE”. It offers insight into the key issues that policymakers, philanthropy and civil society should consider as they continue to support Ukrainian refugees in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).