Po­ten­tial or lost souls?

At least 2.5 mil­lion Ukraini­ans live in the EU. A re­cent study looks at the mo­ti­va­tions and ex­pec­ta­tions of the lat­est wave of Ukrainian emi­gra­tion to France

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - Alla Lazareva, Paris

Alla Lazareva (Paris) on the mo­ti­va­tions and ex­pec­ta­tions of the lat­est wave of Ukrainian emi­gra­tion to France

“I have an im­pres­sion that half of Prykarpat­tia’s work­ing-age pop­u­la­tion is in France,” a friend says while brows­ing through the con­tacts on her smart­phone. “Ta­nia from Sni­atyn picks up my kids from school, Li­uda from Kolomyia cleans my win­dows, Khrystyna from Kalush does hair for my en­tire fam­ily, Ok­sana from Ivano-Frankivsk makes our birth­day cakes…”

Wealth­ier or poorer, Ukraini­ans abroad tend to go to other Ukraini­ans for ser­vices. Shared lan­guage, habits and un­spo­ken rules make it eas­ier for them to set­tle down in a for­eign coun­try. While some hardly ever go be­yond the Ukrainian com­mu­nity, oth­ers try to get rooted abroad. Most Ukraini­ans of the lat­est wave of em­i­grants, the fifth one, never in­te­grated into the French com­mu­nity. Fewer of them have be­come an equal part of it.

Ac­cord­ing to The Chal­lenges of Mod­ern Mi­gra­tion: Ukrainian Com­mu­nity in Paris, a sur­vey con­ducted by pro­fes­sion­als from the Ukrainian Catholic Univer­sity, at least 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple from Ukraine re­side in the EU to­day. The es­ti­mates of the num­ber of Ukraini­ans liv­ing in France as a re­sult of sev­eral waves of emi­gra­tion range be­tween 150,000 and 250,000. Who are these peo­ple — a re­source of sup­port and pro­mo­tion of Ukraine abroad or the “lost con­tin­gent” as one diplo­mat from the Yanukovych Ad­min­is­tra­tion put it?

“The main goal of this sur­vey was to hear peo­ple, their pains and hopes, so that we bet­ter re­spond to their needs,” Bo­rys Gudziak, the Eparch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of Paris and Pres­i­dent of the Ukrainian Catholic Univer­sity, com­mented. “We hope that this pi­lot study, which we have shared with the Pres­i­dent, the Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs and Ukrainian diplo­mats, will en­cour­age them to de­velop state pol­icy for the mil­lions of Ukrainian mi­grants abroad. For this pol­icy to emerge, we need to see, hear and un­der­stand then. Peo­ple are the great­est trea­sure of our state and of our Church. They are not merely a re­source, but some­thing mys­te­ri­ously greater, be­cause God him­self be­came Man to be closer to peo­ple. This sur­vey was a show of sol­i­dar­ity, first and fore­most.”

UCU’s sur­vey is based on in­ter­views with 600 par­tic­i­pants only. There­fore, it does not project its con­clu­sions to the en­tire Ukrainian com­mu­nity in France. But it does re­veal some trends. One is that the main mo­ti­va­tion for mov­ing abroad is eco­nomic.

“This is no longer im­mi­gra­tion but evac­u­a­tion,” a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church priest jokes bit­terly as more and more new peo­ple come to the Church in search of ac­com­mo­da­tion, jobs, peo­ple to meet and all kinds of in­for­ma­tion to help them set­tle down in the new place.

There are prob­a­bly no ac­cu­rate fig­ures about how many Ukraini­ans have moved abroad, in­clud­ing to West­ern Europe. Some are il­le­gal mi­grants who do not reg­is­ter any­where. But the most pop­u­lar rea­sons for leav­ing Ukraine are ob­vi­ous. 73.7% of re­spon­dents in UCU’s sur­vey said that they moved to France in search of work. 44.1% are il­le­gal mi­grants. 31.7% have tem­po­rary res­i­dence per­mits, in­clud­ing short and longterm visas. 4.6% have French cit­i­zen­ship while 17.4% hold per­ma­nent res­i­dence per­mits. Some la­bor mi­grants plan to re­turn to Ukraine where they are build­ing or ren­o­vat­ing their homes and send­ing money to their fam­i­lies. Oth­ers of­ten plan to stay in France af­ter three years abroad, the sur­vey shows.

73.7% of re­spon­dents in UCU's sur­vey said that they moved to France in search of work. 44.1% are il­le­gal mi­grants. 31.7% have tem­po­rary res­i­dence per­mits, in­clud­ing short and long-term visas. 4.6% have French cit­i­zen­ship while 17.4% hold per­ma­nent res­i­dence per­mits

Emi­gra­tion for work fol­lowed by le­gal­iza­tion in the coun­try is a tested strat­egy that the French au­thor­i­ties tend to tol­er­ate. “You don’t see or hear Ukraini­ans com­pared to other com­mu­ni­ties, such as those from Africa,” says Christof, a re­tired po­lice­man. “They work like shad­ows, mostly in semi­le­gal con­struc­tion and ren­o­va­tion, and don’t cause any se­ri­ous trou­ble for our se­cu­rity. Af­ter all, ev­ery­one knows that the French would be build­ing much less if con­struc­tion com­pa­nies were pay­ing all due taxes re­quired by law. All of these il­le­gal mi­grants would have nowhere to go work if our in­dus­try did not need this grey sec­tor.”

“We con­trib­ute to the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of both coun­tries, Ukraine and France,” says Mykhailo proudly. He has been work­ing in the ren­o­va­tions busi­ness in the Paris re­gion for five years now. “Both coun­tries get less taxes be­cause of us, but we help both solve many prob­lems for which they lack pub­lic money. Ukraine does not lose from us work­ing abroad be­cause we spend the money earned on its ter­ri­tory. I have read some­where that Ukrainian la­bor mi­grants from all over the world trans­ferred home over US $9bn in 2017 of­fi­cially. And how much more did peo­ple bring in cash? Prob­a­bly as much or more.”

Ac­cord­ing to the UCU sur­vey, 40% of Ukrainian mi­grants in France are men and 60% are women. Over 70% are from Ha­ly­chyna in West­ern Ukraine. 63.3% lived in cities be­fore mov­ing to France, and 52% have univer­sity de­grees, but only 18% have in­ter­na­tional de­grees or are study­ing abroad. Only 5.1% of the fifth-wave mi­grants live on their own. Mostly peo­ple opt to live with any­where from one to five flat­mates to save on the spend­ing.

“Given the data on how long it takes peo­ple to find a job, the con­clu­sion is that many mi­grants in France al­ready have one wait­ing for them — 23.5% be­gan to work as soon as they moved. 37.3% of the polled found a job within a week af­ter mov­ing to Paris. 63.8% spent a month look­ing for work. Over­all, half a year af­ter mov­ing to Paris was enough for 94.7% of the polled to find their first job (this cov­ers the mi­grants with ex­pe­ri­ence of get­ting em­ployed). This prob­a­bly speaks of de­mand on the la­bor mar­ket and the mi­grants that are highly mo­ti­vated to look for a job ac­tively and pro­duc­tively,” the sur­vey says.

The speed of em­ploy­ment points to an­other ob­vi­ous fact which the sur­vey does not look at: there are sys­tem of lo­gis­tics that bring mi­grants to France, in­clud­ing from Ukraine. While the mi­grants com­ing to France to work in con­struc­tion or French house­holds hardly use any crim­i­nal struc­tures, the sit­u­a­tion with asy­lum seek­ers is worse. “We are see­ing preg­nant Ukrainian women ar­riv­ing in France lately, of­ten in the late term of preg­nancy, and not at all from the war-af­fected area,” says a mem­ber of the as­so­ci­a­tion that helps asy­lum seek­ers. “They all ex­pect to get asy­lum, talk about threats to their life and op­pres­sion, al­though there is no war in their re­gions, they are not in­volved in big pol­i­tics, and their sto­ries of “per­se­cu­tions” at home don't look cred­i­ble. France re­cently stooped au­to­matic fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance and ac­com­mo­da­tion for any­one ap­ply­ing for asy­lum, so I’ve seen sev­eral of such women quite des­per­ate. But I have no de­sire to help them, even out of com­pas­sion. It looked too much like a scheme by those who traf­fic them in locked trucks with­out of­fi­cial cross­ing of the bor­der, with­out us­ing the visa-free travel regime,” he shares.

What these women count on is ob­vi­ous: they ex­pect to give birth in France af­ter which they can­not be de­ported since the child is born on French soil. This looks like a sys­tem where these women lie about Ukraine and give their money to or­ga­nized crim­i­nal groups. And this does not help Ukraine’s im­age abroad.

“De­spite the dif­fer­ent as­pects and dif­fi­cul­ties in job search and the gen­er­ally be­low-av­er­age to­tal monthly in­come, those polled mostly men­tion higher earn­ings as one of their key mo­ti­va­tions for emi­gra­tion,” the UCU study says. This is the main dif­fer­ence be­tween the cur­rent fifth wave of emi­gra­tion from Ukraine and the ear­lier ones, es­pe­cially the first (emi­gra­tion of politi­cians and in­tel­li­gentsia, as well as other peo­ple in­volved in the strug­gle for Ukraine’s in­de­pen­dence and against the Bol­she­viks in the in­ter­war pe­riod) and the third (of mem­bers of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Ukrainian Na­tion­al­ists flee­ing the so­vi­ets af­ter WWII).

“Peo­ple have come for a piece of bread, but too of­ten they are so ob­sessed with that piece of bread that they see noth­ing be­yond it,” Va­syl Sli­pak, the opera singer who left France to de­fend Ukraine against the Rus­sian ag­gres­sion in the East and was killed on the front­line in 2016, used to say bit­terly. Of course, these peo­ple reg­u­larly send money home, thus work­ing for the Ukrainian econ­omy in one way or an­other. But they are al­most nowhere to be seen in demon­stra­tions for Ukraine. They are not the most gen­er­ous do­na­tors to the char­ity projects launched to help their coun­try in the dif­fi­cult time. It is too early to say how lost this con­tin­gent is for Ukraine. But its over­all po­ten­tial is far weaker than that of the gen­er­a­tion of Ukrainian po­lit­i­cal emi­gres that set­tled down in France 100 years ago.

“Ukrainian mi­grants in Paris are gen­er­ally not ac­tive as cit­i­zens,” the study con­cludes. This is quite ob­vi­ous. In the best of times, the largest ral­lies for Ukraine in France have at­tracted sev­eral hun­dreds of peo­ple. Mean­while, the Paris re­gion is home to at least 15,000 Ukraini­ans. This trend will hardly change in the fu­ture. The new di­as­pora is los­ing the struc­ture that was typ­i­cal in the pre­vi­ous waves and does not rush to get in­volved in pol­i­tics. As a re­sult, the func­tion of pub­lic diplo­macy falls on the shoul­ders of the 10-15% of ac­tivists who do not limit their in­ter­ests to purely ma­te­rial val­ues.

Not enough staff. The Paris re­gion is home to at least 15,000 Ukraini­ans who are ac­tive as cit­i­zens

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