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Press release: Ukraine: Unions sheltering thousands of refugees

Food, medicine, beds, clothes and transport are among the emergency aid being provided to refugees from the war in Ukraine as part of a massive humanitarian mobilisation by trade unions.

The ETUC and its national affiliates across Europe are providing millions of Euro for aid which is being delivered on the ground by unions in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

Unions are also using their expertise to help refugees integrate quickly into their host countries by helping them to find work and giving them advice on labour rights and social security to ensure they are not exploited.

Support provided so far includes:

  • Ukraine: Unions have thrown open the doors of their facilities across the country to provide people with food and shelter. 55,000 displaced people have so far stayed in 10 facilities operated by the FPU in the west of Ukraine, while the KPVU are also hosting people in a complex in the Lviv region and are supplying drinking water to hospitals in the Kyiv region.
  • Poland: Accommodation for 730 people is being provided in trade union facilities across the country by Solidarnosc, OPZZ and FZZ, where refugees also receive essential supplies. Solidarnosc is using its office in Gdansk as a reception centre, while OPZZ has established an advice centre in its headquarters which offers Ukrainian language services and information.
  •  Slovakia: 1000 beds are being provided free of charge in three trade union-owned hotels. KOZ-SR are also collecting clothing, food and hygiene supplies to be delivered to humanitarian hotspots on the border with Ukraine. Ordinary members in this area are also providing support directly to refugees.
  • Romania: Railway workers represented by the BNS trade union are working with their colleagues in the Ukrainian railways to organise the transportation of aid including mattresses and bedding to Ukrainian unions sheltering refugees in their facilities.
  • Bulgaria: CITUB have established temporary reception centres in five cities – Varna, Burgas, Ruse, Dobrich and Haskovo – providing refugees with supplies like clothes, bedding, canned food, baby milk and toys, hygiene products and cooking equipment. They are also providing advice about how to find employment, accommodation and medical assistance.
  • Lithuania: The police union, which has donated thermal clothes, medicine, military boots and sleeping bags, are among unions collecting money and essential supplies. LPSK are lobbying the government for improved integration of refugees. The teachers’ union prepared and live-streamed a lesson on the history of Ukraine for schools as part of efforts to counter Russian misinformation.

Unions in Moldova have also opened up facilities for refugees from Ukraine. The work of unions in Ukraine and neighbouring countries is being supported by donations from unions across Europe. For example, the Austrian trade union confederation, ÖGB provided more than 15 tonnes of emergency aid like food, hygiene products and blankets which was delivered to the Ukrainian border.

The ETUC has made 500,000 Euro available to ensure unions can continue delivering humanitarian aid in Ukraine and to refugees from the country. That comes on top of the hundreds of thousands of Euro being spent by national trade unions.

The ETUC is calling on EU leaders to do more to support refugees and stop the war: 

  • The European Union should step-up their diplomatic efforts and stop leaving it to individual governments and leaders, while increasing pressure on Putin through further sanctions which specifically target the assets of the Russian leadership and elites.
  • Welcome all refugees from Ukraine and other countries, including Russia and Belarus, regardless of their nationality and migration status, and allow them the right of mobility within EU territory, without requiring biometric passports, and put in place adequate measures for relocation, reception and integration in EU countries.
  • Concrete dialogue with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova regarding the accession process to the EU

ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini said:

“Ordinary working people in Ukraine have been hit the hardest by this appalling invasion launched by Russia’s billionaire oligarchs. The people arriving at union-run refugee centres in Ukraine and its neighbouring countries often don’t have a change of clothes, never mind medical supplies or baby food.

“In the union movement, we say an injury to one is an injury to all. That’s why there has been such a huge mobilisation of trade unionists across Europe in raising money, collecting essential supplies and taking political action to support refugees and our brothers and sisters still in Ukraine.

“EU leaders have a responsibility to match the efforts being made by ordinary people to welcome refugees – wherever they are from – and ensure they can safely return home as soon as possible by doing more to end this war, through tougher sanctions and more direct diplomacy.

“But the EU should also end its double standards on welcoming refugees and asylum seekers. The Temporary Protection Directive has been activated for the first time ever, rightly giving Ukrainian refugees the right to work with equal pay and conditions in the EU. Unfortunately, these rights weren’t extended to people fleeing the war in Syria. All refugees should have the same rights.”


Contact details for trade unions delivering aid on the ground can be provided upon request.  

ETUC/ITUC fundraising page:

ETUC Resolution on Ukraine:

UnionMigrantNet – The UnionMigrantNet is a European network of contact points providing services to migrants established, managed and supported by trade unions.