In order to provide certainty for more than four million Ukrainian refugees currently living in the EU, the Council of the EU agreed on September 28 to extend the temporary protection for people fleeing from Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine from March 4 2024 to March 4 2025, a statement by the Council said.

The temporary protection mechanism was activated on March 4 2022 – only a few days after Russian armed forces launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine – and it was automatically extended by one year.

Temporary protection is an EU emergency mechanism which is activated in exceptional circumstances of mass influx.

The EU directive on temporary protection was adopted in 2001, in the aftermath of the large-scale displacement experienced in Europe due to the armed conflicts in the Western Balkans, in particular from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

The objective is to alleviate pressure on national asylum systems and to allow displaced persons to enjoy harmonised rights across the EU.

These rights include residence, access to the labour market and housing, medical assistance, social welfare assistance and access to education for children.

Following the September 28 political agreement, the Council will have to formally adopt the decision to extend the temporary protection. This will happen once the legal scrubbing and translation in all EU languages has taken place.

Bulgaria’s Cabinet, meeting on September 27, agreed to extend the country’s humanitarian assistance programme for displaced persons from Ukraine, a government statement said.

Put in place in 2022 soon after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the term of the programme has been extended several times, and was due to expire on September 30 2023, the statement said.

The government has established a working group to develop a programme for humanitarian assistance and integration of displaced persons from Ukraine granted temporary protection in Bulgaria.

The draft of a new programme is at the final stage of development, and procedures for its coordination and approval by the Cabinet are to be carried out, which requires a corresponding period of time, the statement said.

Meanwhile, the existing programme for humanitarian assistance for those displaced from Ukraine and who have temporary protection in Bulgaria is extended until December 31 2023 on the same conditions currently in force.