Appeal by IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF: Inclusion opportunities for refugees from Ukraine in Austria need further improving

Photo: IOM 2023/Anastasiia Rudnieva 

The end of the war is not in sight. Access to social assistance as well as long-term residence prospects would boost inclusion and job opportunities for refugees from Ukraine

February 24 marks the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Around 6.5 million refugees – most of them women and children – have found refuge, mainly in European countries, while around 3.7 million people have been displaced within Ukraine.

Around 83,000 refugees from Ukraine, including 25,000 children, are currently living in Austria as part of EU-wide temporary protection, and the commitment of all actors in emergency aid was unprecedented. However, in view of the continuing hostilities in Ukraine, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) believe that it is now essential to find long-term solutions for refugees from Ukraine in Austria in order to increase their chances of inclusion.

After access to the labour market for refugees from Ukraine was further facilitated last year, access to social assistance would now be another important inclusion aid from the point of view of the three UN organizations. Currently, refugees from Ukraine are still in the so-called basic care system, which was designed for short stays mainly for asylum seekers. The benefits of basic services (e.g. a maximum of around 440 euros per month for an adult single person for all costs such as rent, food, hygiene, clothing, etc.) are therefore almost not sufficient for survival without the help of civil society, as a survey by UNHCR clearly showed.

"There is an urgent need for a system change here in order to get Ukrainians out of the poverty trap and eliminate their disadvantages when starting a job and thus enable them to live on their own. This would be beneficial not only for the people concerned, but also for the host society," said Christoph Pinter, Director of UNHCR in Austria.

A complicated calculation system and very few opportunities to earn extra money in basic care also make it almost impossible to take on low-paid or part-time jobs. In addition, social assistance offers interfaces to the Public Employment Service, which are lacking in basic services. Access to social assistance would be particularly important in view of the large group of women with children who have fled alone and their care responsibilities.

"Children who have been displaced from Ukraine and have endured a lot of suffering need safety and opportunities. If, instead of experiencing this security, they are affected by poverty, it has far-reaching consequences. Future opportunities are taken away and physical and mental health also suffer in the long term. Children have a right to care and social participation, the best possible health and education.  EVERY child has these rights. We all benefit from a just society," says Christoph Jünger, Director of UNICEF Austria.

IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF are also appealing to create long-term security for both the affected Ukrainians and Austrian employers as soon as possible due to the unforeseeable end of the war.

"The majority of those displaced are women and children, as well as older adults. A precarious financial situation and dependencies increase the risk of exploitation and abuse," explains Marian Benbow Pfisterer, Head of IOM Austria. "Therefore, their financial situation must be improved above all – through improved social security, the targeted promotion of labour market integration and the creation of longer-term residence prospects."

This requires targeted age- and gender-sensitive measures that take into account different dimensions of inclusion. Work-oriented approaches, for example, need to be reconciled with needs in other areas. For example, a single mother without a social support network is unlikely to take advantage of the economic opportunities presented to her if her non-economic needs are ignored.

Above all, refugees who cannot work or can only work to a limited extent, such as the elderly, mothers with small children or persons with disabilities, should be considered and protected in a future new regulation.

Finally, the three UN organizations emphasize that in many cases the potential and qualifications of Ukrainians could be better used in Austria. Many Ukrainians who have fled to Austria already have high educational qualifications. In order to increase their job opportunities, IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF recommend that Austria promote the recognition of these qualifications.


Further enquiries:

IOM Austria
Andrea Götzelmann-Rosado, MLS, Phone.: +43 1 585 33 22 22, Mail:

UNHCR Austria
Ruth Schöffl, Phone: +43 1 26060 5307, Mail:

UNICEF Austria
Michael Blauensteiner, Phone: +43 660 38 48 821, Mail:

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities