Ukrainian refugees struggle to find jobs and accommodation in Europe amid Russian invasion
Ukrainian psychologist Tatyana Bogkova was on a birthday trip to Poland with her mother and four-year-old daughter when Russian troops invaded her native country.
- Ukrainian refugees struggle to find jobs and housing after fleeing their country at the start of the invasion
- Spain took in 142,000 Ukrainians under temporary protection
- Data shows that only 13% of the 90,000 working-age Ukrainians in Spain are employed
As shells rained down on the city of Kharkiv and her policeman husband remained to fight, the 32-year-old chose refuge in Spain, where she quickly translated her CV and took language lessons in hopes to get a job.
However, months later, she is still searching.
“I’m not afraid of any job but I would like to do what I learned,” Ms Bogkova said.
“Every day I look for ideas on how to work while my daughter is in school.”
A help center of the Catholic Church and a family offered them a free house until December.
Ms. Bogkova cleans a cafeteria fortnightly with her mother and also does volunteer social media content for a charity.
His family are among 7.6 million Ukrainian refugees scattered across Europe since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops over the border and bombed towns.
Ukrainians were first welcomed with open arms in shelters and homes across Europe, where authorities skipped bureaucratic hurdles.
As the war enters its eighth month and their hopes for a quick return dim, many feel in limbo and struggle to make ends meet.
Europe’s cost of living crisis – including soaring energy bills as winter approaches – has exacerbated their plight, as explained by Ihor Ostrovskyi, a 57-year-old academic from Lviv who fled to the Portugal after the invasion.
“At the beginning, many people came [to Portugal] feeling depressed because of the war… now their main problem is the situation here,” Mr Ostrovskyi said.
He works at the reception of a warehouse that is Lisbon’s refugee center and said most of those who come need urgent help to find a job or a house.
“Nobody knew it was going to last this long,” he said of Portuguese families’ waning enthusiasm to open houses for free.
Struggle to find work, language barrier
Portugal has taken in more than 52,000 Ukrainians, with authorities running programs to help them pay rent and find homes in a process some have found slow.
Spain has taken in 142,000 people under temporary protection and guaranteed them health and employment services from day one, benefits that other refugee groups do not receive as quickly.
However, Ukrainian refugees struggle to find decently paid jobs, especially those that match their skills.
Many do not speak the local language and most are women, many single mothers, as Ukrainian men of fighting age have largely stayed put.
Those who find work are often forced into low-wage sectors, such as tourism, agriculture and construction.
In Spain, official data shows that only 13% of the 90,000 Ukrainians of working age are employed.
Some 61% of the new arrivals were in higher education, of which 28% had degrees or professional qualifications, most often economists, engineers, software developers and entrepreneurs.
In Portugal, Pôle Emploi IEFP has 5,523 Ukrainian professionals listed as available for work.
Germany took in almost a million Ukrainians between February and September, but less than 10% have jobs, according to the Federal Employment Agency, although nearly 340,000 Ukrainians are registered as job seekers. use.
Agency spokeswoman Susanne Eikemeier said the limiting factors were a lack of childcare, difficulty in recognizing foreign credentials and language issues.
Given that many were experiencing “an existential emergency” after fleeing war, she added, finding work was not always a priority.
In the Algarve, the first tourist region of Portugal, Maria Joao de Deus has created a group to help Ukrainian refugees.
However, accommodation has declined as accommodations have been turned over to tourists over the summer and now jobs are dwindling at the end of the holiday season.
“There are people who return to Ukraine because of [the] lack of opportunity,” she said.
“I don’t want to be an illegal migrant”
The Spanish International Protection Unit, which deals with migrants, offers language courses and employment programs with the aim of “adapting expectations” to reality and facilitating integration.
However, general manager Amapola Blasco said many Ukrainians were skipping classes or turning down jobs because they didn’t plan to stay long.
“Many of them are unwilling to work in the catering or care sectors, where it is relatively easy to find a job, even if your language skills are limited,” she said.
“These jobs do not meet their expectations.”
Without a job, renting becomes more difficult.
In Portugal, Ukrainian travel agent Oksana Voloshyna would like to stay until she can return home safely, but she is intimidated by the country’s bureaucracy.
Refugees were able to register for temporary protection online, but most only received a confirmation email.
“The future is unpredictable in Ukraine, so we would like to have something more predictable here in Portugal,” she said.
“I don’t want to be an illegal migrant.”
The Iberian nations granted Ukrainians a one-year protection, although this could be extended.
Katherine, 34, a model and clothing designer, was recovering from breast cancer surgery when Odessa came under attack.
She now lives in a refugee center on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria with her 12-year-old son and receives medical assistance.
Despite the depression, she is working on her Spanish and trying to find a job in tourism, so far without success.
“I had a dream life,” she said. “Now I have no home.”