Eric sold his property in Nigeria to immigrate to Ukraine. In October 2021, the 44-year-old started his MBA degree at Dnipro University and ran a small online store to feed his wife and their three children aged two, seven and nine in Nigeria. In February, Vladimir Putin launched an attack on Ukraine. Eric fled from Dnipro, the fourth largest city in the country, and the area bordering the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic in the east of the country. His name was changed by the editors to protect him. “I don’t see a future for myself in Nigeria,” he says in an interview with nd.DieWoche. And universities there have been on strike since February, with no end in sight. In his native region of Imo, violent attacks by armed gangs have been repeated over and over for a year. On March 12, after a brief layover in Berlin and Aachen, he finally reached Jena. His hope: to continue studying and working here.
Many refugees from Ukraine had this hope. For a large number of them, this is possible without any bureaucracy. Thanks to the exception under the European Union’s Temporary Protection Directive, Ukrainian citizens can obtain temporary residence permits for two years, as well as access to study, work, social benefits and health care. Under certain conditions, third-country nationals also benefit. However: “Only a minority of this group falls under this 24th paragraph,” Julian Jbeil tells nd.DieWoche. She is active in BIPOC Ukraine & Friends Germany, an alliance supporting black, indigenous and colored people who fled to Germany from the war in Ukraine, including Roma and Sinti.
Much of this group is only allowed in Germany, and there is no requirement for visas and residence permits. But this exemption expires on August 31. To this day, two weeks before the deadline, it has not been clarified what will happen next for all those who have studied or worked with limited residence in Ukraine. There is an illegal threat. A three-month transition period applies to people who enter Germany after September 1st. A total of about 24,500 war refugees from Ukraine of other nationalities were registered in Germany by mid-July. It can be assumed that the number of unreported cases is high, and registration is always associated with risks for refugees.
Eric has no idea how to proceed. He is currently working for the Amazon group online on a permanent contract. If after August 31 he does not receive a residence permit or other extension of the stay obligation suspended, he will lose his job and his home. “I wrote to the immigration office twice and got no answer,” he said in a phone conversation in mid-August. Eric has a friendly voice, but the longer he talks about his situation, the more desperate he seems: “I don’t know what to do. Why don’t they treat us like Ukrainian citizens? In response to a question by nd.DieWoche, the press spokesman for the City of Jena explained that in the past few days fictitious certificates valid for six months have been sent to the persons concerned. “In principle, the persons concerned can apply for protection under Article 24 of residence or asylum application.” In Eric’s case, it is likely that both are hopeless. A fictional certificate is a kind of temporary right to residence pending a decision on the application.
The federal states are currently discussing how to move forward. A decision is expected in Berlin next Tuesday. But: “We need a change in the legal situation at the federal level. For now, unequal treatment is enshrined in law,” says Mount. On Thursday, a coalition of different aid organizations petitioned Federal Home Secretary Nancy Visser (SPD): “Make sure that Section 24 provides protection for all those who have fled from Ukraine and give them a perspective of the future, including the third “Citizens of the country and stateless!” written there. Is the Federal Ministry of the Interior working on a solution for third-country citizens of Ukraine after August 31? The ministry left a query from D’Wish unanswered by the time it went to press.
For now, it is left to chance how sufferers are treated. Anyone who ends up in Berlin, Leipzig, Bremen or Hamburg is lucky because the authorities here make generous decisions. In other federal states such as Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg, third-country nationals were often tolerated, but did not obtain a work permit. Ed Gref, a political officer at the Migration Board in Berlin, says he was contacted at the end of July by someone from North Rhine-Westphalia with a border crossing certificate on August 8 – an invitation to leave the country. The BIPOC Ukraine & Friends Germany office also continues to receive inquiries from all over Germany: “We established ourselves as an initiative from Berlin and suddenly we are spending sleepless nights with cases from Munich desperately turning to us,” says Geebel.
But it is not only the German authorities that are the problem. Alexander Gorsky is a criminal attorney and immigration attorney. He has represented about 40 refugees from Ukraine, Ukraine and other citizens, and has counseled thousands. “The Ukrainian embassy is also failing my clients,” he says. It doesn’t help when it comes to getting documents. He gives an example: “It is about a child who was born in Ukraine and therefore has the right to citizenship. As family members, the parents have the right to reside in Germany according to Article 24. But the parents only have a medical and not legal birth certificate. «The embassy did not issue the papers to the family, but asked them to travel To Ukraine to bring it in. In response to a question by “nd.DieWoche”, the Ukrainian Embassy in Berlin did not comment on this until the time of going to the press.
Keyword 24 continues to appear in conversations with refugee activists. Another possibility is humanitarian accommodation, Greave says: “There are solutions and if the government can’t find any, it’s because they don’t want to.” Eric hasn’t received a fantasy certificate from Jena yet. Amazon asked him again to send in his papers. He is afraid of losing his job.