The First Week of the Visa-Free Regime: What Ukrainians Were Not Allowed Into Europe For

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The first week of the visa-free regime has passed. European border guards, according to the official figures of the State Border Service of Ukraine, already sent back 22 Ukrainians. At the same time, for the whole week, 18,000 Ukrainians visited using biometric passports the countries of the Schengen area. “Strana” found out what isn’t allowed in visa-free travel to the EU.

Booking and excursion plans

Refusals most often are due to a lack of return tickets, shortages of money, or simply people didn’t convince the EU border guards that they are not departing to work. After all, it is impossible to work officially on the visa-free regime, although with the abolition of visas many want to find illegal earnings in Europe.

Some of those who were refused entry had been previously deported from the countries of the Schengen or had expired visas for old foreign countries, i.e. remained in the EU longer than the allocated term of 90 days in half a year (all information of the entire Schengen remains in the database of the border guards). One violator of the visa regime wasn’t let into Poland, and two into Slovakia. Some tried to pass using an old international passport – one person returned from the Romanian border.

“One Ukrainian had problems at the airport of the German city of Cologne,” said the head of Department of the consular service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sergey Pogoreltsev. The man said that he enters Germany as a tourist, the hotel booking and a “plan of excursions” was demanded from him at the border as confirmation. The Ukrainian couldn’t produce either.

“The matter was settled, and the passenger passed through only thanks to the intervention of the Ukrainian consul, which was in the airport,” said Pogoreltsev.

Returned from Italy

But consuls were on duty on the border only on the first day of the visa-free regime. Most often in the first week people were sent back home at the Polish and Romanian borders, two more people were sent back from Italy. These two didn’t have neither tickets back to Ukraine, nor the sufficient sum of money.

READ:  The Ethno-Political Approach - an Urgent Need in Modern International Politics and Political Science

On average for departure to the EU it is necessary to have 50 euros per day (about 1,500 hryvnia – a whole pension for the average Ukrainian). It except the road paid in both parties and housing. A week of rest can run up a round sum of almost 1,000 euros.

“It’s one thing when you are turned back at the border with Poland, where you came by train. It’s a shame, but at least you didn’t spend too much money. It is absolutely another thing when you are sent back from Italy or Spain, and expensive plane tickets vanish. When there were visas, the refusal came from the consulate, while here people already spent time and money. I have to fly to Rome next week, I dreamed to visit there long ago, I raised money for a trip. Now I worry what can enter the minds of local border guards,” said the indignant Lvov resident Irina Davidyuk.

“Italians even reluctantly gave visas, and for a couple of days (they are afraid of economic migrants), while with the visa-free regime they will “dig to the bottom” of border control,” assumes the traveler. “The procedure is humiliating – where do you go, why, how much money do you have. They don’t stage such interrogations at the European border. While we are second-class citizens. It seems that the visa-free regime didn’t change the attitude towards us, they see in Ukrainians potential illegal immigrants. When we were using visas, at least then there wasn’t a need to communicate personally with the consul, only to file documents. While now every trip turns into a test and a hassle”.

People go through Poland

Planes, however, are not the most popular form of transport – because of the high cost. A third of travelers go to Europe on the visa-free regime by air. Nearly a half chose the border with Poland (7,500 people), it is much more convenient – they drive cars and go on trains (by railway is the quickest as border control takes place directly on the carriages). The border with Hungary (2,200 people) is also popular, from there it is quicker to reach Croatia or Italy by car.

And if in the first days a buzz wasn’t observed, then this past weekend the flow started. Hundreds of cars accumulated on the border (and on cameras online the queue isn’t always visible, which many complain about – it is difficult to plan a trip). As border guards described, just for Saturday, June 17th, 5,000 Ukrainians crossed the border on the visa-free regime. This is three times more than in the first day after the visa abolition.

“In the first days many already observed how they are allowed to travel on the visa-free regime, or still continue to receive their biometric passports. We prepare for “Armageddon” in July, we wait for holiday-makers and economic migrants. There will be long queues,” admitted the employee of the border service in the Lvov area to “Strana”.

Storm of pedestrian transition

After the first day of the visa-free regime many rejoiced at the absence of queues. “Ukrainians once again showed to the world that they the polite nation: neither queues on the border, nor excessive scandals and commotion,” wrote on Facebook on June 11th Oleg Slobodyan, the press attaché of State Border Service.

READ:  Oleg Tsarev: Crimea is the Intermediate Stage of the Reunification of Russia With Ukraine

But already in a week the picture changed. The habitual queues returned into check points, and on the only pedestrian transition in the Lvov region in Shegini a crush and jostling with abuse and shouts were observed.

According to locals, there are now even more people than usual. On Sunday, June 18th, about 400 people simultaneously gathered (usually it’s twice less). Petty smugglers from the neighboring villages, who resell to Poles cheap cigarettes and vodka, blended in with “pedestrians” long ago. They never needed visas – like those who lives on the border.

Now the “shuttles” were added to the usual travelers – if you travel light and go to Europe for a couple of days, then the fastest way is to cross the border on foot, and then you can already move by bus. But here you can get into a mess. “I waited in line for three hours,” complains Sabina Malinovskaya, formerly from Lvov, who lives in Krakow.

“On the pedestrian one, the crossing is narrow, while the Polish border guards make people pass slowly. There is the impression that they are mocking. That’s why there is a queue. But also ours are good – everyone wants to pass quicker, run, push each other, nearly walk over others. Indeed it is impossible to pass quietly, it won’t be any quicker anyway. With such manners Polish border guards will treat all Ukrainians like cattle,” said the indignant Bogdan Fedechko, who often goes to Poland for work.

Waiting for economic migrants

Meanwhile Europe, after the abolition of visas, waits for a flow of Ukrainian economic migrants. In neighbouring Poland, many are sure that on the visa-free regime Ukrainians will obviously not go for vacation (in Europe it is expensive even for locals).

READ:  Lvov: "Right Sector" Radicals Beat Tourists From Belarus for Speaking Russian

Already now, as was told to us by Lvov employment agencies, the number of people interested in traveling for work grew approximately three times. “If 50 people came [to the office – ed] during the week prior, now 200 came. Many go to pick berries, the salary recalculated into hryvnias is about 13,000,” said Oksana Fedun, who sends Lvov residents for work.

In Poland the arrival of new workers from Ukraine is treated differently. Some are glad, as supposedly there are no working hands, and Ukrainians are hard-working. Others are afraid of the competition and that Ukrainians will bring down their salaries.

“This is only the beginning. They will arrive on the visa-free regime to find work and to settle. And what about us? We don’t want to raise salaries, after all Ukrainians agree to plow for less money. One can only imagine what will happen in a few months when Ukrainians in large quantities go to work in Poland. The Polish government needs to do everything to return our workers from England, and not to accept new Ukrainians,” Maciej Barcza from near Katowice on Facebook.

The Polish “Gazeta Wyborcza” predicts that Ukrainians will seek higher earnings in Western Europe, bypassing Poland: “Theoretically the abolition of visas for Ukrainians doesn’t change the rules regulating their acceptance for work in Poland and EU countries. In practice it can lead to the fact that Poland will become for them only a transit point for the labor markets in Western Europe”.

Copyright © 2022. All Rights Reserved.