The myriad problems facing Ukrainian refugees in Romania

06 oct., 2023

In the days and weeks after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, millions of refugees fled across the war-torn nation’s borders as they sought safety in other countries from the war. It was the largest exodus of people in Europe since the Second World War. 

More than six million Ukrainian refugees have entered neighbouring Romania since the war started, the large majority of them transiting through to other European Union countries. But roughly 85,000 still remain in Romania, where they now face myriad challenges.

“It’s very hard for us to live here. It’s very hard for all Ukrainians,” Yevheniia Tsymbal, who lives in the capital Bucharest with her husband and four children. “The government simply doesn’t take responsibility for those they have taken in.”

In May last year, shortly after the war started, Romania’s government launched the so-called “50/20” scheme which was designed to ease the humanitarian crisis by providing basics such as shelter and food to the refugees. The scheme offered Romanian landlords who provided free housing for refugees compensation of 50 lei per person per day, and an additional 20 lei for food, which they were expected to supply. 

Some refugees, however, had made casual agreements with their hosts to give them the allocated money to buy their own food. However, the scheme was plagued with corruption and abuse claims and was ultimately frozen by the government in January. 

On 10 September, about 100 Ukrainian refugees held a protest in Bucharest to express their anger at the Romanian government for blocking their funds. One of the protester’s placards read: “You promised protection, support, and safety.”

signal 2023 10 02 114924 002

Tsymbal, who is originally from Kryvyi Rih, lived in an apartment under the 50/20 scheme for five months but said the landlord did not provide her family with food for the last three.

“We survived due to the fact that different nongovernmental organizations came to us and brought food,” she said. “The owners were supposed to provide us with food worth 9,000 lei or give us this money, but this did not happen.”

“We don’t know what they spent this money on,” she added. “The owners thought that if the organization brought us food, then that would be enough for us.”

The European Commission announced in the spring of last year that it had made funds available for bloc members hosting Ukrainian refugees, which could be reallocated from other existing EU schemes on a per-nation basis. 

A previous investigation by (here in Ukrainian), found that around €2 billion from various EU programs could have been used by the state to cover the expenses incurred by supporting refugees. While it is unclear what percentage of that sum was available for Ukrainians, we do know that about €1.8 billion could have been reallocated from the REACT-EU program, which the EU bloc told Romania it could use for refugees. 

Some Ukrainian refugees told in that investigation that they returned to their war-torn country because the Romanian state had for months blocked their aid money. 

Rimma Vasylko, a mother of two children from the southeastern Dnipropetrovsk region, said that the first landlord also did not provide her with food, which left her and her two children seeking alternatives to survive until they were forced to find other accommodation while the 50/20 scheme was still running. 

“The salaries we get here are small, they barely cover the rent,” she said. “There are no payments from the government, most likely next month we will have to return to Ukraine – there isn’t enough money to live on.”

Changing of the rules

In May this year, Romania’s government set out conditions for granting financial aid to refugees from Ukraine, which has drawn widespread criticism. The funds earmarked for many Ukrainians funds were delayed by months by the state, which left them barely making ends meet. 

Ukrainians must now meet several criteria. For the first month, those who have temporary protection status receive 600 lei per person for food and 2,000 lei per family for accommodation, while single people get 750 lei for the latter. Three months after this,  refugees must be registered with an employment agency, be employed, and have their children enrolled in the education system. 

From the fifth month onwards, they must be employed to continue receiving aid. Exemptions are made for refugees aged over 65; those enrolled at university; can prove they have a disability or caring for a child up to two years old.

Compounding the issue is Romania’s poor management of the EU funds which were available for aiding the refugees’ stay. 

The changing of the rules and the apparent mismanagement of available funds by the Romanian state have left many of the tens of thousands of refugees in precarious predicaments. 

Vasylko, the mother of two, is now left fearing she’ll have to return to her home in Ukraine as the war drags on, to an area that has already been struck by at least three Russian missiles. 

She added: “If we had known that there would be no funds, we might have gone to another country.”

Edited by Stephen McGrath

Video: Yana Skoryna

Photo source: Inquam Photos / George Călin

Despre autor: Alina Okolot

Avatar of Alina Okolot
Alina Okolot este o jurnalistă ucraineană din Kiev care lucrează în presă din 2017. Alina a lucrat ca reporter TV în departamentul de știri al canalului PravdaTut TV unde a documentat știri din sectoare diverse, de la politic la economic, cultură și sport. Ea a lucrat de asemenea ca editor de programe educaționale și de divertisment pentru canalul Kiev TV și pentru ediția online a Adevărului de Irpin. Alina spune că jurnalismul este vocația sa. Ea s-a alăturat echipei CONTEXT, după ce s-a mutat în România. Ca jurnalist, ea se ocupă de investigarea crimelor de război comise de Rusia în Ucraina, țara sa natală. Ea scrie des despre corupție și documentează poveștile martorilor în subiecte legate de război. Țelul Alinei este să arate lumii adevărul printr-un jurnalism de calitate.

One Comment

  1. Avatar of Kateryna
    Kateryna 06 oct., 2023 at 15:40 - Reply

    Doar groază !Deja am depus documentele pentru a șasea lună nu am primit nici un ban !Proprietarii au permis unor oameni să trăiască în datorii, dar nu mai avem răbdare ! Ajutor !!!!.

Leave A Comment