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Refugee policy in use: How Ukrainians get social welfare in France?

Author : Anna Peshkova

Source : 112 Ukraine

If you have a biometric passport, no convictions, and no alimony debts, you can not only travel to France to see the Eiffel Tower for free but also earn 150-200 euros. We are going to tell you how to go to France and arrange social assistance as citizens of a country that has suffered from hostilities
17:23, 2 February 2021

112 Agency

This kind of messages flooded Telegram channels about part-time jobs in Ukraine. The organizers promise to independently draw up the documents for leaving (an invitation to work, a certificate of coronavirus, and insurance). Clients are assured that everything is legal: businessmen receive social assistance from a European country, and you get a free tour.

We talked to three “hooker-ins” and learned how the “scheme holders” get profit from the help of European states. Read about the new “part-time job” and its risks in our material.

How Ukrainians are transported abroad

It is easy to guess that the "clients" are not being taken to Paris itself. We are talking about Ile-de-France, that is, a suburb of the French capital. All three intermediaries with whom we spoke called the terminus Melun, which is located 45 km southeast of Paris. However, the interlocutors assure: "tourists" must be taken to the Eiffel Tower at least once during the trip.

Of the almost two weeks of the trip, only half of the trip takes place directly in France. After those who wish to visit abroad send a photo of their passport and phone number, they will need to come to Kyiv. However, there will be no direct departure from the capital to Melun. First, the organizers will take the "tourists" tickets to Podolsk (Odesa region) - free of charge.

Related: Turkey forcibly deports Syrian refugees, - Amnesty human rights company

One of the interlocutors admitted: it is necessary to make sure of the reliability of people's intentions. There were precedents when documents for the trip were prepared in advance for those wishing to visit France, and at the last moment, they refused the deal. So now the organizers of the scheme insure themselves against losses.

The next test: to get with the rest of the "refugees" on a bus to France. The interlocutor says that he carries 15 people in one flight. However, his colleague said that sometimes about 7-8 people are recruited. The route turns out to be very long: it takes 28 hours by car to get from Odesa to Melun. Taking into account the crossing of the EU border, the trip takes two days. During the trip, passengers stock up on food at their own expense.

Reception center for asylum seekers in Melun
112 Agency

The organizers say that there will be no quarantine service upon arrival. Since January 23, Ukrainian residents really do not need it when crossing the Polish border.

There is the OFPRA (Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons) Reception Center in Melun at 90 Avenue du General Patton. Most likely, upon arrival, Ukrainians centrally apply to this center and move into the house provided by the organizers.

You can guess that those who want to get this "trip" (taking into account free accommodation and meals) are settled in a house with doubtful conditions. The organizers refused to provide the photo. But one of the intermediaries called the place of residence "dorms of the 90s" with "Spartan living conditions" and advised the girls not to use his offer.

Most of the time in the hideout is spent waiting. Except, of course, for visits to the center and travel to Paris.

After receiving the card, on which the refugee's help will come, the "tourist" gives it to the person who was engaged in registration and paid for the trip. Most likely, we are talking about La Banque Postale. This is the bank at the French post office with the largest number of customers. One of the interlocutors also speaks of the presence of a certain "power of attorney" that allows using this card. However, without specifics.

On the spot, the "refugee" receives his own money (from 100 to 200 euros). The return trip is also in a minibus and is also paid for, including a certificate for the PCR test. However, this time the intermediate point is not Odesa, but Lviv. According to one of the organizers, a separate person is responsible for the movement in Lviv.

Related: Russian citizen asks Ukraine's State Border Guards for refugee status

How much money Ukrainian refugees get?

The Syrian Assef, who received refugee status in France, told 112.ua that today the amount of assistance for the holder of this status is about 500 euros. In addition, the refugee has access to work opportunities, free medical care, and French courses until he becomes fluent in the language of the country. The interest of the organizers of the scheme is obvious.

"You can withdraw money only on the territory of France. And the customers live in their apartments and do not spend money on rent," says one.

Moreover, the mediators assert a 100% probability of receiving assistance from a refugee. Allegedly, the funds can be received not only by migrants from Donbas but also by all other Ukrainians.

According to OFPRA, the country approved fewer asylum applications in 2019 than in 2018. At the same time, the number of requests increased by 11%. In 2020, applications were approved even less than in 2019. And this is despite the fact that the number of requests has decreased by more than a third (apparently due to the pandemic) – to only 81 669. That is, every year it is more and more difficult to obtain asylum in France.

Related: Number of refugees from Syria may face deportation from Germany

On average, approximately two out of three refugee requests are approved in the country. Dynamics on the satisfaction of requests from Ukrainians specifically does not provide. However, there are statistics of refusals to Ukrainians in obtaining refugee status in general in the Schengen countries. In 2019, EU countries approved only 10.2% of asylum applications from our citizens. Although back in 2018 this figure for Ukrainians was 17.3% - according to the report, in the third report of the European Commission on assessing the fulfillment of the requirements necessary for the liberalization of the visa regime with the countries of the Eastern Partnership and the Western Balkans. Data for 2020 is not yet available.

For more up-to-date information, we turned to the Foreign Ministry speaker for comments, but he said that he did not have such data. The department itself, as well as the consulate of Ukraine in France, did not provide information within the time period specified by law.

Judging by the information on the websites of companies providing assistance in obtaining refugee status, the unstable situation in the country is not at all a reason for granting refugee status. There are also those who are evading mobilization into the combat zone. However, reasons such as "I'm scared, they are shooting at us" are no longer "quoted." Representatives of European countries believe that Ukraine is also able to take care of its citizens from uncontrolled territories. It is not for nothing that we have introduced the concept of a forced migrant, that is, in fact, an "internal refugee". Refugee status can only be obtained by those who can prove that they have received an unfair refusal of assistance from the Ukrainian government and, moreover, have been discriminated against. Moreover, documentary evidence is needed that the rights have really been infringed.

Refusal to serve in the army and fight is also not considered, since officially Ukraine does not send conscripts to Donbas area. Dodgers are considered deserters and not refugees unless they are denied service for reasons of religion. And then – with a number of conditions.

In addition, there is another very important aspect that can prove that there is no question of obtaining refugee status in this "scheme." On the way to France, you must not pass through the territory of countries that are recognized as safe, otherwise, you will be sent to apply for refuge there. And in the most favorable version, the application is considered from six months to two years, so it is impossible to receive a new status immediately upon arrival in the country.

Thus, most likely, they are not interested in the refugee assistance itself. Quite the opposite: the organizers are well aware that this status will be denied to their "clients". We can talk about obtaining temporary assistance - until the moment when the application for refugee status is considered. After receiving a refusal in refugee status, it is possible to appeal it in court. Meanwhile, the migrant (in this case, the organizer of the scheme) continues to receive government assistance.

Assef applied for refugee status about 10 years ago. Now the volume of social assistance has grown. The organizers say that 450 euros per month will be transferred to the card.

Related: Threat of coronavirus forced refugees to leave border between Turkey and Greece

Scheme profit

Taking into account the payment for "work," the cost of moving, meals, paperwork, the organizers go "to zero" in the first month, and during the rest of the time, while the application is being considered, "earn."

It is no secret that Ukraine has established the sale of certificates of negative PCR tests. The media wrote that one such document costs about 12 euros. Work invitations to Poland sell for about 30 euros. And for people who have such an established process, most likely there are "bulk discounts". The insurance costs around 150 euros. But there is no certainty that it will not be fake either.

According to one of the organizers, the road only one way costs 350 euros. Plus - the cost of tickets to Lviv, renting the house itself in Melun, and paying for meals. And, of course, you need to take into account the promised client 150 euros.

Related: Number of refugees worldwide approaches 80 million, - UNHCR report

According to our calculations, even taking into account all these costs, on one such "refugee" the organizers of the scheme can earn from 2,000 to 10,000 euros - depending on how long it will take to consider the application for refugee status.

Judging by the dates that "barkers" voiced in chats for part-time work, such trips occur weekly. Taking into account the fact that for each "flight" from 7 to 15 people are sent to the country, one month of hard "work" over the next six months or two years brings from 56,000 to 600,000 euros. Of course, if funds for food for the "refugees" can be cashed out.

In 2020, there was a sharp increase in applications for refugee status in France from Ukrainians: almost 2,000 applications. At the same time, judging by the OFPRA reports, back in 2016-2017, our citizens submitted less than 550 applications per year.

Today our country is among the top ten citizenship applicants. Although for several years after the outbreak of the military conflict in Donbas, when the chances of receiving this assistance were greater, there were much fewer requests.

The organizers earn money not only in France but also in other countries. However, intermediaries say that quarantine prevents such plans.

In Germany, for comparison, financial support for the arrangement of life is 3,000 euros per family, there is free housing and food. A refugee who agrees to leave Germany for home before the start of the asylum application will receive 1200 euros. That is, the scheme is even simpler.

“In general, all refugees want to go to Germany, Sweden, Holland, UK, but not to France,” Assef assures.

Related: President's Office replied to Mejlis regarding return of Ukrainians from refugee camp in Syria

Risks and negative consequences

The organizers are not afraid of responsibility. The lawyers say that the organizers really do not show the very fact of taking people abroad in order to obtain refugee status. Also for the use of other people's cards, if their owners gave them away voluntarily. However, a prison term for forgery of documents and for fraud on an especially large scale, if the scheme is revealed, is quite real.

As for the "refugees" themselves, the scheme-makers assure: everything is legal and official. Obtaining financial assistance from the country will not affect travel in any way - there is no data in the border service, nor on subsidies for utility bills.

However, you need to understand: when deciding to become an accomplice in fraud, a Ukrainian also risks going to prison. Even if information about forgery of documents is revealed, according to Part 4 of Art. 358 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, a fine, arrest for up to six months, or restriction of freedom up to two years is possible.

Related: Three Ukrainians with seven children released from Syrian refugee camp

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