German Officials Criticize Financial Aid for Ukrainian Refugees

Baden-Wuerttemberg’s Thomas Strobl says migrants could be heading to the country en masse due to the benefits on offer

Several regional interior ministers in Germany have urged the federal government to eliminate what they describe as generous financial assistance to Ukrainian refugees. Officials from the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have asserted that benefits are making it more challenging for Kiev to recruit new soldiers for the conflict with Russia.

According to Eurostat, around 1.3 million Ukrainian refugees were residing in Germany as of March 2024, an estimated 256,000 of whom were believed to be men aged 18 to 60, national media reported.

Unlike refugees from other countries, Ukrainians in Germany are entitled to a ‘citizen’s benefit’ of €563 ($610) a month – a level of support significantly higher than in other EU member states. Deutsche Welle reported earlier this year that the employment rate among Ukrainian refugees in Germany stands at only 20%, apparently among the lowest compared to other host nations.

Speaking on Tuesday, the interior minister of the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Thomas Strobl, suggested: “Possibly we have particularly many Ukrainians in Germany in contrast to our neighbor, France, for example, because there are these high social benefits here, [not seen] anywhere else in Europe.” He also claimed that the generous government handouts may be hindering “Ukrainians’ defensive fight” by sending the wrong message to able-bodied Ukrainian men.

Strobl expressed hope that the issue would be raised at the conference of interior ministers currently being held in Potsdam.

His Bavarian counterpart, Joachim Herrmann, argued last week that the German government should be encouraging draft-eligible Ukrainian men to return home. Speaking to the RND media outlet, the regional interior minister said “we [can no longer] make further efforts to support Ukraine in its defense against Russia… and simultaneously reward those dodging the draft.”

The interior minister of Brandenburg, Michael Stuebgen, and his counterpart from Hesse, Roman Poseck, have expressed similar views in recent weeks.

Echoing these sentiments, Thorsten Frei, the deputy head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the Bundestag, on Sunday claimed that the “benefits… to war refugees are providing completely wrong incentives.”

The general secretary of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), Bijan Djir-Sarai, told Bild on Sunday that “newly arriving war refugees from Ukraine should no longer receive citizen’s benefits,” but rather regular asylum seeker assistance.

In April, Ukraine’s Vladimir Zelensky signed into law a new mobilization bill that lowers the conscription age from 27 to 25. It also significantly expands the powers of enlistment officers and introduces various restrictions for draft dodgers, including by denying them consular services abroad and the ability to update their ID papers.