Vitoria (EFE).- More than 4,000 Ukrainians live in the Basque Country one year after the Russian invasion, mostly children and women, since many men stayed in their country to repel Vladimir Putin’s army.
Although it is difficult to calculate exactly how many Ukrainians there are in the Basque Country as a result of the war in their country – there is no official figure and some displaced persons have decided to return – several references can be taken to make an estimate.
The first is the number of requests for temporary international protection. This is a necessary procedure to obtain a residence and work permit. In these first twelve months, a total of 4,046 Ukrainians have applied for this protection.
In addition, 3,021 people from the invaded country have requested the health card in Osakidetza (both temporary and ordinary) and 982 minors have enrolled in the Basque educational system.
First bombardments on February 24
This refugee crisis stems from Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. The first bombardments began on February 24, 2022. The immediate consequence was that thousands of Ukrainians left their country on the run to flee the war.
In those first days of the conflict, people began to arrive in the Basque Country on their own, informally and unplanned.
The Basque institutions found themselves overnight with a totally unexpected situation and the need to provide first emergency care to the displaced.
Although many refugees had family in Euskadi – not only compatriots, but also Basque families that every year welcome children from Chernobyl – many more arrived with no place to stay.
Barely a week after those first bombings, on March 1, the first inter-institutional-social table to organize this first response to the refugees took place in Vitoria. He also took care of channeling the wave of citizen solidarity, given the multitude of private offers to help the displaced.
The reception in Euskadi
This was the first of many meetings – first weekly, then fortnightly and finally monthly – in which the Basque Government worked hand in hand with the social entities that care for refugees, as well as with the Delegation of the Spanish Executive in the Basque Country.
Contingency plans were approved that were adapted as the situation changed and several lines of aid for refugees were launched, grouped together in the so-called Isuri Fund, endowed with 15.1 million euros.
Through it, economic benefits have been granted to refugees, psychosocial assistance has been provided to displaced persons and their foster families, local reception groups have been created to promote their integration and after-school support has been provided to Ukrainian children.
The first weeks after the Russian invasion were intense work since it was necessary to articulate in a short time a response to a wave of refugees that nobody expected because nobody expected a war within the European continent.
A year later the situation is more stable. At the end of 2022, only 239 displaced Ukrainians occupied a place in the first-call service of the International and Temporary Protection Reception System (Sapit), far from the 627 people who needed this type of accommodation in April 2022.
However, the duration of the conflict in Ukraine is uncertain and while it lasts it will be necessary to maintain the mechanisms to care for the more than 4,000 Ukrainians who live in the Basque Country and who left their lives, their homes and their country behind to flee the war. EFE