Members of the European Parliament express serious concern about the situation of refugee women from Ukraine and call for concrete efforts by the EU Institutions to ensure fulfilment of obligations under the Temporary Protection Directive.

17 October 2023 (PRESS RELEASE) – Today, the European Parliament held a plenary debate on the situation of refugee women from Ukraine, including their access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. The debate addressed the serious barriers refugee women from Ukraine continue to face in some member states when they need sexual and reproductive healthcare.   

In 2022 the European Council activated the EU Temporary Protection Directive, which places clear obligations on all member states to ensure that every refugee from Ukraine can access emergency health care and essential treatment of illness and to guarantee that survivors of sexual violence from Ukraine are provided with all necessary medical care. Yet despite these obligations, in some member states, such as Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, many refugees from Ukraine still cannot access the sexual and reproductive healthcare and gender-based violence support services they need.

During the debate, the European Commission underlined the importance of these member state obligations under the Temporary Protection Directive and highlighted that full respect for the Charter on Fundamental Rights must be guaranteed when implementing EU legislation and obligations.

We welcome this critically important debate on the need for comprehensive action to address the serious barriers facing refugees from Ukraine who need access to sexual and reproductive healthcare and gender-based violence support. It is vital that the EU live up to its commitments to refugees from Ukraine and take concrete and urgent action to address gaps in the implementation of the Temporary Protection Directive,” said Leah Hoctor, Senior Regional Director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

As documented in a recent report the impact of the access barriers facing refugees is severe. The report, entitled Care in Crisis, outlines that many women are making the decision to return to Ukraine temporarily to access care because of the insurmountable barriers they face in Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

“High costs, a lack of information and translation, poor quality services, legal restrictions, discrimination. These are the kind of barriers that refugees from Ukraine are facing in Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia when they seek sexual and reproductive healthcare. We need serious and urgent action from all levels of the EU to address these concerns,” said Erika Schmidt, Director of EMMA Association, Hungary

“Since the invasion of Ukraine many women who were raped have sought urgent reproductive healthcare in Poland. Although under the Temporary Protection Directive they should have access to all the medical care they need following rape the reality is that often they still do not receive it,” said Krystyna Kacpura, President of the Foundation for Women and Family Planning in Poland.

“My organization has provided assistance to tens of thousands of women from Ukraine who need reproductive healthcare in Romania. They face serious cost and information barriers and often do not know who to turn to for help. Many women make the painful decision to go back into Ukraine temporarily to seek sexual and reproductive healthcare because of the significant restrictions they face,” said Irina Mateescu, Founder of the Independent Midwives Association in Romania.