‘The Netherlands must prepare for Ukrainians who want to stay’

Alina has one very clear priority: to give her 12-year-old daughter a good life. They came to the Netherlands together in July, leaving their homeland Ukraine behind. The many bombings near their hometown of Poltava had made life impossible there.

“I fled,” she says, not for herself, but for her daughter. “I went to the Netherlands because I heard that the people here are so friendly, that things are well organized here, that the education system works well.”


Like the rest of the world, she has no idea how long the war will last still lasts. And what life would be like after that, in peace. Is her house still there? Can she work there? Can her daughter go to school?

These are all reasons why Alina is increasingly considering staying longer in the Netherlands. “It’s not an easy choice, my house is in Ukraine, my family is there. But my daughter goes to school here, I have a job, we learn Dutch. It’s a mixed feeling.”

And there are probably more Ukrainians in the Netherlands like Alina, who is now dragging the war on, and are starting to play with the idea: maybe I’ll stay here. The Clingendael Institute does a lot of research into the long-term perspectives of Ukrainian refugees. It is estimated that about 25 percent of Ukrainians will soon remain in the Netherlands permanently.

Rooted in the Netherlands

“Two important factors play a role in this,” explains Monika Sie, director of Clingendael. “Before the war, one in four Ukrainians actually wanted to migrate, we know from research. The longer the conflict lasts, the more people take root here.” According to Sie, the special status of Ukrainians mainly plays a role in the fact that they take root here relatively quickly: they can already work and go to school here and do not have to wait for a residence permit, like refugees from many other countries.

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In the video below, correspondent Olaf Koens answered six questions about the war in Ukraine, and how long it will last:

There are now 80,540 Ukrainians who have registered in the Netherlands since the war, according to figures from the Ministry of Justice and Security. Based on Clingendael’s estimate, this would mean that at least 20,000 will remain in the Netherlands after the war.

More Ukrainians are expected to flee this way in the near future. A harsh winter is coming and many refugees from border countries will come this way if the war lasts longer. This will also increase the number of 20,000 Ukrainians, Clingendael expects.

Partly for this reason, the Migration Advisory Council withdrew last month ring the bell: things have to change in the Netherlands to make it easier for Ukrainians to build a life here. The Council states, among other things, that ‘(young) adults at an appropriate level’ must be able to complete the training in the Netherlands that they started in Ukraine.

Voluntary integration courses should also be offered and Ukrainians should not be dependent on registration in the Basic Registration of Persons to receive medical care. In addition, according to the advisory council, it should be easier for Ukrainians to get started as self-employed.

Big challenge

Clingendael also calls on the government in a report to come up with a long-term plan for these people. Monika Sie states that the government must act ‘in all areas’. Think of education, employment, integration, housing. And it should also be arranged better for Ukrainians than the government is doing now, the research institute says. “Housing in particular, because of the current tightness in the housing marketa big challenge,” fears Sie.

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Many municipalities offer housing for a short period of time, such as a year or less, as a kind of emergency shelter. Sometimes these are hotels or empty buildings. In e.g. Best families were accommodated in an old school building. Or on cruise ships such as in Rotterdam (see photo below).

Some of those places were closed months ago: municipalities sometimes concluded very short contracts with hotels and therefore had to look for another alternative. There are also municipalities that do look at the longer term, such as the Migration Advisory Council and Clingendael advise. Such as the municipality of Lansingerland in South Holland. They say they have been working there for months to find a place for flexible housing where Ukrainians can continue to live for at least a few years.

Noses in the same direction

“And we have now succeeded,” says Mayor Pieter van de Stadt, “at the beginning of next year there will be 150 homes for Ukrainians and 80 for emergency seekers from the municipality itself.” He has to admit that the arrangement was disappointing for the municipality: “It was difficult to realize this.”

The province did not want to hand over the piece of land that was first designated as suitable because windmills had to be built. “We also often encountered delays because connecting cables and pipes took a long time.”

What Mayor Van de Stadt has learned from this is that a plan like this can only be realized if everyone cooperates. When all noses are in the same direction.

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Secretary of State working on plan

Even before the autumn recess, State Secretary Van der Burg, of Justice & Security, will present his long-term policy for Ukrainians. He promised that to the House of Representatives on Friday evening.

Alina now lives in Zaanstad, in the municipal shelter: dozens of Ukrainians live there temporarily on a cruise ship. “We really feel welcome,” she says. She has a job, her daughter goes to school. But the future is uncertain for her. Where is she going next? How long can she stay on this ship?

“We have no idea how much longer there will be war. And if there is peace, I don’t know what life will be like in Ukraine.”

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