By: Maryellen Fullerton
In 2022, the Russian invasion of Ukraine produced an unprecedented wave of temporary immigration protections throughout the European Union (EU). Within the first few months of the war in Ukraine, over 4 million displaced individuals had registered for
temporary protection. EU States distant from Ukraine sheltered hundreds of thousands of displaced families, while Poland and other EU States that border Ukraine sheltered more than 2 million. This groundswell response marked a striking departure from just seven years
earlier, when the EU Commission and EU Council failed to use readily available laws to provide a temporary protection program for Syrians displaced by civil war. Calls for temporary protection in response to prior migration crises had also gone unheeded.
What can account for this about-face? This Article offers multiple possible explanations for this radically different response: geographical proximity, the perception of a temporary armed incursion across international borders, the predominantly female composition of the war
refugees, the existence of a Ukrainian diaspora in EU Member States, visa-free travel for Ukrainians throughout the European Union, and the general absence of racial and religious differences all played a role. Together these factors resulted in an immense display of social
solidarity and civic engagement, which, in turn, led to a successful rollout of the first EU-wide temporary protection program since the legislation was enacted in 2001.
This Article argues for the centrality of the role played by civil society to the success of the program addressing the Ukrainian refugee crisis. Private individuals hosted the majority of the displaced in their own homes. Reliance on public shelters for long-term accommodations
was minimal. Herein lies a key to successful future deployment of EU- wide temporary protection. Developing networks, both secular and faith-based, to welcome displaced families into private homes will bolster the political will to activate temporary protection when future
needs arise. This form of civic engagement will provide social support and integration assistance to those who have fled conflict, endemic violence, and systemic human rights violations. It will relieve some economic and political pressures on governments and improve the odds that EU-wide temporary protection will not be a one-time-only event.