International Research Network – FORUM

Forced Migrants From Ukraine in Transnational Europe: Between Personal Agency, Civil Society And The State

FORUM (Forced Migrants from Ukraine in Transnational Europe) is a network of researchers across Europe conducting research on the experiences of people who have fled Ukraine to seek refuge in various countries. We are interested in how those fleeing Ukraine negotiate their everyday lives vis-à-vis welfare state regulations, institutional practices, and engagements of various civil society intermediaries locally and transnationally. Individual projects focus, among others, on family life, local and transnational social networks, economic independence, labour market participation and access to welfare of people from Ukraine in the respective countries. We are mindful not to reduce individuals to their experience of displacement, arrival in a new setting and seeking a temporary protection and potentially a refugee status. Therefore, we also track a set of political and social attitudes and reflections about individual identities as well the role of the Ukrainian state in these processes. Conducting similar research across multiple countries will enable us to better understand the role of national and local policies, practices, and cultural meanings that shape individuals’ experiences and strategies due to the war-driven migration.

The FORUM network is coordinated by:

FORUM's Ethics Statement

Our individual studies as well as our network is committed to conducting research ethically and in compliance with best practice guidelines by relevant professional organisations. This includes obtaining meaningful, informed consent by research participants at all times. The research involves potentially vulnerable human participants and includes online and face-to-face interviews and digital diaries. Compliant with the partner institutions' ethics regulations, every research participant will be given a project information sheet and data protection information that outlines the purpose of the respective study, who is undertaking and financing the study, and how it will be disseminated and used. The project information sheet will include contact information should participants require additional information or wish to retract information or withdraw participation at any point and will also explain how anonymity and confidentiality is afforded. The project information sheets will be translated into Ukrainian and Russian.

Beyond these aspects, we are committed to fair and respectful research. We want our research to contribute not only to progress in science, but also that it should be relevant to our research participants. We are committed to dialogue with research participants and understand that labels such as refugee, asylum seeker, migrant, or displaced person are contested and seek to use the terms that research participants themselves use and consent to. We seek to conduct our research in a way that is respectful of research participants and supports their well-being. We are committed to disseminating research results in a way that is respectful.

Who We Are

The FORUM network brings together scholars with extensive expertise in research with migrants and refugees as well as displacement and migration and asylum regimes, welfare state politics, solidarity and conflict. Our strength lies also in long-term research competence on Eastern Europe, in particular Ukraine and Russia. FORUM includes scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, including sociology, political science, educational studies, psychology, and anthropology. 

Collaborating scholars

Germany

Dr. Nora Ratzmann, German Centre for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM e.V.)

Dr. Sabine von Löwis, Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOIS)

United Kingdom

Dr. Silke Zschomler, Postdoctoral Fellow, Thomas Coram Research Institute, University College London

Prof. Mette Louise Berg, Thomas Coram Research Institute, University College London

Dr. Jo Billings, Division of Psychiatry, University College London

Poland

Prof. Maria Nawojczyk, Department of Society and Technology Studies, AGH University of Science and Technology

Dr. Łukasz Krzyżowski, Department of Society and Technology Studies, AGH University of Science and Technology

Sweden

Oksana Shmulyar Gréen, Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Work Science, University of Gothenburg

Denmark

Dr. Astrid Stampe Lovelady, SEGES Innovation

Ukraine

Prof. Oksana Mikheieva, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv and Viadrina Institut für Europa-Studien, Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder

Dr. Viktoriya Sereda, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv and Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena

Context of FORUM's Research

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the escalation of war after 24th of February 2022 has led to wide-spread destruction of civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties, forcing people to leave their homes and country in search of safety, protection, and assistance, first of all in the countries neighbouring Ukraine. So far (as of June 1st, according to UNHCR), nearly 3.6 million people fleeing Ukraine have found protection in Poland; 989,000 have fled to Romania, another 479,000 to Moldova, 682,000 to Hungary, 461,000 to Slovakia. Around 610,000 people have arrived in Germany (BAMF). But countries further away have also welcomed Ukrainians: in the UK, almost 100,000 people were registered; Denmark prepares to host up to 100,000 people; and Sweden registered ca. 35,000 refugees.

While it is not yet clear how the situation in Ukraine will develop, and when and whether these people will be able to return to their homes in Ukraine, these figures demonstrate the European dimension of the situation.

Since 2017, Ukrainian citizens have had access to visa-free travel to the Schengen Area, for travel of up to 90 days within any 180-day period. This regulation significantly facilitated the movement from Ukraine into the neighbouring European Union countries after February 2022, as no effective border controls and registration of people crossing them from Ukraine were possible and people could travel unobstructed to their desired destination. In reaction to this qualitatively new situation, the European Union decided that the residents of Ukraine who escape war from 24th February 2022 onwards are entitled to temporary protection in any EU country. Temporary protection will last for at least one year and can be extended depending on the situation in Ukraine.

The Russian invasion in Ukraine has led to a large-scale humanitarian crisis. The activation of the Temporary Protection Directive -- the first time since it was created in the wake of the Balkans crisis in the 1990s – enables governments to suspend existing asylum determination processes for Ukrainians. The reception and welcome extended to people fleeing the war in Ukraine stands in sharp contrast to policies that have progressively tightened and eroded the institution of asylum across Europe in recent years. This includes the policies of border externationalisations, as well as push-backs at Europe’s borders that violate the Refugee Convention. This poses new questions around discrimination and notions of solidarity, and around the permanence and temporality, winners and losers of Europe’s migration and asylum regimes. It also questions the conceptual and practical difference between migration and forced displacement.

Despite a common EU framework, each country has found different ways of embedding the rule of Temporary Protection in national legal frameworks; the United Kingdom, no longer a member of the EU, has developed its own reception policy. National differences include the length of protection granted, deadlines and procedures for registration, and variation in terms of access to schooling, the labour market, or social support. Significant differences also exist regarding accommodation and reallocation rules within each country. Private accommodation seems to be a dominant form so far in most countries, but the hosting infrastructures differ in scope and availability, from temporary shelters to more permanent structures, and governments have set up different frameworks to support private individuals or relatives of refugees who host them privately. Approaches to schooling for adults as well as children remain uncertain in several countries.

Alongside these structural, legal, and infrastructural differences, each state has its own normative ideas about how to welcome and integrate migrants and refugees in their societies. Further, each country has its own historical experiences of migrants (also workers from Ukraine) and refugees, and its own welfare regimes and bureaucratic styles.

Aims of FORUM

Given the significant differences between European countries in their approaches to accommodate and integrate people fleeing war in Ukraine, this transnational network of researchers examines policies towards and experiences of people from Ukraine vis-à-vis welfare state regulations, civil society organisations and everyday institutional practices through coordinated projects.

Some of the questions driving our research are:

  • How do people fleeing the war in Ukraine negotiate their agency vis-à-vis state regulations on their access to schooling, housing, and the labour market?
  • What help do people from Ukraine receive from state institutions, and what barriers to accessing support and services do they experience? How do they experience encounters with state institutions and availability and quality of written information?
  • What is the policy response at national, regional, and local level? How do national, regional, and local state institutions constitute people fleeing Ukraine as un/deserving of welfare, care and support?
  • What is the role of the Ukrainian diaspora and diaspora organisations and other civil society organisations in the settlement processes, at the intersection between state and people fleeing the war in Ukraine?
  • How do different subject positions (in terms of e.g., gender, age, class, ethnicity and faith, language skills, and educational background) affect and influence the reception and outcomes for people fleeing from Ukraine when they seek support abroad?
  • How does the experience of seeking refuge abroad impact trust in state institutions in places of arrival?
  • What are the individuals' attitudes on issues related to democracy/authoritarianism, state-society relations and civic engagement locally and transnationally?
  • How do individuals displaced by the war speak about their own identity/-ies? Does their thinking about the Ukrainian state/nation change over time?

How We Work Together

Researchers within the FORMUM network commit to coordinating their own research on national responses and enable data sharing and joint data analyses. Through a systematic comparison across different national contexts, we examine national variations in constellations of welfare and migration regimes and how individual life strategies of people fleeing war in Ukraine are moulded by national and local institutional settings and cultures.

Through our common methodological approach, we plan to encompass and analytically address the dynamics of encounters that people who fled Ukraine have with various state institutions, from registration offices to labour offices, schools, and housing. Addressing changes over time, we account for how people gain skills to navigate new environments, forge relationships with local residents, learn basic language skills, but also change their motivation and plans for future. 

The insights generated by and within the network will enable active dialogue with various stakeholders. We will exchange best or better practice examples; provided available funding, we strive to organise various digital networking activities across localities in Europe to promote exchange of experiences between various actors to promote dialogue, joint reflection, and sharing of good practice.

FORUM's Research Methods

The members of FORUM commit to coordinate their research efforts within the group. While each partner institution will bring their own resources into this joint endeavour, and might set slightly different priorities, all partners commit to:

  • apply qualitative in-depth interviews as the main research instrument
  • use a coordinated interview guide (core guide, which can be extended according to local needs and interests)
  • sample research participants according to agreed selected criteria
  • contribute to coding of data according to the agreed method and structure
  • share their data, fully or partly, or analyses with each other in compliance with GDPR requirements
  • commit to joint data analysis and co-authoring of academic and non-academic publications

Participating scholars are encouraged to:

  • re-interview the research participants within the agreed period of time
  • consider the use of digital diary applications to capture everyday experiences of research participants
  • seek to conduct research in more than one location to capture diversity in local experiences
  • translate the transcribed interviews to English to enable data sharing within the network
  • provided their availability, contribute to joint digital events with external partners