The resolution of the applications will take a maximum of 24 hours and will include temporary residents in the Ukrainian country, as well as citizens of the eastern country who were in an irregular situation in Spain..

Spain has decided to spearhead the wave of refugees caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to UNHCR figures, the number of people displaced by the conflict could reach 6 million people and, faced with such a situation — said to be the most serious in terms of population displacement in Europe since the Second World War — both the EU and the Spanish government have developed their own measures.

The first action was taken by the European Union. EU justice ministers, at the proposal of the European Commission, decided on 3 March to take an unprecedented decision: to activate its Directive 2001/55/EC to initiate temporary protection for refugees from the war in Ukraine. This directive includes permission to reside in the EU for at least one year, a period that can be extended.

Within days, the Spanish government wanted to go further. Through the application of ministerial orders 169/2022 and 170/2022, the ministries involved approved the extension of this protection to any resident (temporary or not) in Ukraine, as well as to all those who were outside the country before 24 February 2022, even if they are in an irregular situation in Spain. In addition, a commitment was also established to resolve any asylum application within a maximum of 24 hours.

The legal context

Looking at the measures taken by both the EU and the Spanish government, it must be said that they do not appear out of nowhere. Although it had never been activated before, EU Directive 2001/55/EC is reminiscent of the last major conflict on European soil: the Balkan War.

It was after the end of the conflicts over the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, and the resulting wave of refugees, that the EU created in 2001 exceptional rules for the reception of people displaced by war. All of its guidelines were set out in Directive 2001/55/EC.

For its part, the Spanish government drafted Royal Decree 1325/2003, of 24 October, which brought national jurisprudence into line with that issued by the European Union in Directive 2001/55/EC. Thus, the Regulation on the temporary protection regime in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons became part of Spanish national law.

The measures

For many refugees, the procedures for obtaining asylum in Spain are a real headache. Since 3 March, at least for those displaced by the war in Ukraine, this will no longer be the case.

Faced with a situation that threatened to overwhelm the capacity to receive and resolve applications in any EU country, the actions that have been taken will try to provide balance in the face of the expected wave of Ukrainian refugees. In this sense, it must be said that the Spanish government's interpretation of the European directive takes some of its features to the next level. Namely:

  • Where Directive 2001/55/EC offers reception to any Ukrainian citizen who left their country after the invasion, Ministerial Orders 169/2022 and 170/2022 issued by the Spanish government commits this aid to any Ukrainian who was also out of the country for study, work or holidays. It also applies to those who left Ukraine before 24 February, the day the Russian invasion began, and who were in an irregular situation in Spain.
  • These orders also extend temporary protection to those foreign nationals who were residing in Ukraine with temporary residence permits. This would be the case, for example, for students from third countries.
  • The option to extend permits is extended, in the case of Spain, to three years.
  • Finally, the government offered its commitment to resolve any request from the affected group within a maximum of 24 hours.

Conclusion

This entire legal system issued by the Spanish government is focused on facilitating the path of those displaced by the conflict towards a situation of protection, avoiding any long, bureaucratic and exhausting process.

However, in cases where this desire is not fulfilled, it will be up to the lawyers who are experts in migration processes to act. For everyone's sake, it is to be hoped that such a case will be as rare as possible.

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