Poland rages at EU over Ukraine refugees as Warsaw blasts aid offer

Poland rages at EU over Ukraine refugees as Warsaw blasts aid offer

Updated: 18 days, 50 minutes, 54 seconds ago

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The EU Commission's recent offer to financially compensate Poland for the country's efforts to absorb millions of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion is threatening to spark a fresh row with Poland's centre-right government. The Polish Government under Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is set to spend 8.4 billion euros in support for Ukrainian refugees, the highest amount in the OECD. The European Union's offer of 144.6 million euros last month has been met with criticism from senior members of the Law and Justice Party amid anger that the bloc is failing to grasp the scale of the crisis which has seen around one million Ukrainians settle in Poland. 

In a series of meeting with Polish Government officials this week, Express.co.uk heard from frustrated ministers who stated the amount of support on offer from the EU was simply not enough.

On Tuesday, Marek Kuchcinski an influential member of PIS and Chief of the Prime Minister’s Chancellery told Express.co.uk: "Over seven and a half million Ukrainians have crossed the border. Poland, together with other countries bordering Ukraine or near Ukraine has done tremendous help in order to support the Ukrainian refugees.

"Out of this seven and a half million, a few million have stayed in Poland, million and a half found work here. Also, please keep in mind that after the invasion of Russia on February 24, there were already a million and a half Ukrainian refugees living in Poland since 2014.

"This enormous support by just normal Poles has had an impact on supporting Ukraine, these costs are taken by Poland, Poland spends billions on helping Ukraine.

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"The EU help is not enough, it exists but the EU is not helping enough to cover all the costs associated with helping Ukrainian refugees," he added.

Mr Kuchcinski was clear in his belief the EU's reaction to the Ukrainian refugee crisis would have been different had the burden fallen on a Western European country rather than on Poland.

He told Express.co.uk: "I do believe that if the same or similar crisis had occurred to countries in Western Europe, the EU would help much quicker, much better. I do feel that there is a degree of unequal treatment of the Western European countries and those in Central and Eastern Europe.

"I just wanted to add that every help is needed at the moment because these are serious costs with regards to the refugee crisis but I just wanted to reiterate that the current EU help is not enough."

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Across Warsaw in another government ministry building, Express.co.uk found similar reactions to the amount pledged by the EU to Poland for Ukrainian refugees.  

"The EU response when it comes to supporting the countries welcoming refugees was certainly inadequate, it was certainly suboptimal," recalled Pawel Jablonski an undersecretary of State in Poland's Foreign Ministry.

He told Express.co.uk: "We indicated on the very first day when the Russian invasion started this needs to be not just a local problem, this is a European problem. This is the largest wave of migration of refugees since World War Two much larger and much more intensive than the allegedly historical one we had in 2015 in the Mediterranean."

"So we said to our partners in Brussels, we need additional support, especially since the EU has been giving such support to other countries, for example, Turkey. In the past when Turkey helped us with addressing the problem of Syrian refugees.

"The EU so far has not responded with any new funds, some older money was reappropriated there were some ideas of larger flexibility, but still not enough."

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Poland is demanding more support from the EU to support refugees from Ukraine

As the funding row between the Brussels and Warsaw threatens to spill over into a wider regional dispute, Ukrainian refugees in Poland face uncertainty and concern for the future.

While the Polish Government's granting of work permits to Ukrainians means many refugees are not reliant on handouts - the elderly, single mothers and those unable to work face economic uncertainty should state support schemes dry up for want of funds.

Uladzislau Laurysh, the Editor of The Warsaw and himself a Belarussian refugee told Express.co.uk: "The Ukrainian people are not afraid of lack of money, because most of them are working, not taking money from the government mostly.

"Of course, there are some people, old people, moms with children who can't go to work they need this money and they need this help."

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Ukrainian refugee Aleksandra Degtayenko believed Poland needs more help from the EU

Standing outside Warsaw's central railway station Aleksandra Degtayenko, a Ukrainian refugee told Express.co.uk: "I think Poland does a lot more than all the other countries.

"The number of people that came to Poland was much bigger than to other countries, to all other countries of the European Union.

"That is exactly why I think Poland needs the most help to help Ukrainians.

"I think Poland really needs help."

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