Spanish bureaucracy leaves Ukrainians waiting for cash help
MADRID (AP) — Thousands of Ukrainians who fled to Spain after Russia invaded their country last year are still waiting for promised payments of 400 euros ($425) a month in the Spanish regions where most of the refugees live.
The central government promised in June that the “most vulnerable” Ukrainians would receive monthly help from a 52.8 million-euro ($56 million) fund, with direct payments made through Spain's regional administrations. Every family judged to be in this category would also receive an extra 100 euros a month per child, the Spanish government said.
The payments have yet to be disbursed in the Valencian Community, Catalonia and Madrid regions, the Associated Press confirmed Friday. The three regions together are home to more than two-thirds of 168,000 Ukrainians registered by the Interior Ministry as under temporary protection in Spain.
Spanish media reported that up to eight regions have yet to make any of the promised payments.
“Ukrainians are looking for homes to rent now, and it's difficult for families to find a place and pay for it,” Yuri Chopyk, who leads a Ukrainian community group in Madrid, said. “There are good intentions, but at times there have been problems of implementation.”
Millions of Ukrainians left their country after Russian troops came in. Across Europe, about 8 million refugees have been recorded, according to U.N. estimates based on data from national governments, and nearly 5 million of those have applied for temporary protection.
The Inclusion Ministry, which oversaw the policy, told the AP it gave the funds to Spain's regional governments in October. The ministry expected 40,000 applications.
Applications opened to Ukrainians registered as living in Madrid in late November, and in December in the Valencian Community and Catalonia. The Catalan region's government said it had received more than 6,000 applications so far and not yet processed them all.
Regional government officials in Catalonia and Madrid told the AP they blamed the central government and the complexity of the documentation required for the delays. The Inclusion Ministry said it had met its responsibility and the money was now the devolved administrations' responsibility.
Valencia's regional president Ximo Puig, promised last week that the funds would be made available this month. The Madrid region intends to distribute the money “as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said. Catalonia expects to make the payments within a month.
Spain has portrayed itself as a staunch ally of Ukraine on the world stage. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv last month.
Follow AP's coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Jennifer O'mahony, The Associated Press