While the war in Ukraine is raging on, many young men from both countries who see this war as a senseless geopolitical struggle have no other way of avoiding it, except by moving abroad and out of reach of draft officials. Ukraine is currently under martial law and departure of men of conscription age, which Ukrainian government has set as between 18 – 60 years old is restricted.

Finland and other Western countries have virtually made it impossible for Russian men who want to avoid going to war to enter these countries, but there have been no restrictions for Ukrainians. On the contrary, laws have been changed and restrictions eased to facilitate the migration of Ukrainians, regardless of age or gender to relocate to the EU area. Finland even went as far as encouraging and transferring Ukrainians to move form Estonia to Finland. An act unprecedented regarding any other nationals in need of humanitarian protection.

Displaced Ukrainians in Finland
As of June 26, 2023, a total of 58,282 applications for temporary protection have been filed to Migri. Most of these applications, 57,166 to be precise, have been submitted by Ukrainian citizens, while citizens of other countries have filed 1,116 applications. The Finnish Immigration Service has, as of the same date, granted approval to 55,629 applications for temporary protection. Currently, the estimated processing time for an application for temporary protection is one week. This is extremely fast for Migri, as some work-related immigrants on the other hand have had to wait for months for their applications to be processed.

In this age and gender distribution stats from March given to Helsinki Times by Migri, while more than half of the Ukrainian’s in Finland are female, a considerable group (9270) are males aged between 18 – 59, which are considered as “conscription age” men by the Ukrainian government. However, there is no additional information about the health or family conditions of these men or their reasons for not participating in defending Ukraine. Ukraine’s martial law exempts several categories of men from restrictions making them eligible to travel abroad, including those based on their state of health, presence of minor children, other family circumstances, and work-related purposes.

Kela benefits
The over 57,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war in Ukraine who have arrived in Finland since March 2022 are entitled to Kela benefits on the conditions set down in the Finnish legislation in force. They can apply for benefits even if they have not decided to stay in Finland permanently.
This spring, Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) introduced a new form to simplify application process for those fleeing the war in Ukraine making it possible to apply for a Kela card and child benefit at the same time.
This new combined application which is available in both Ukrainian and Russian was introduced for the first time only for Ukrainians. Many other key Kela forms are also translated into these languages.

Majority of displaced Ukrainians have now lived in Finland for more than a year and are thus eligible for benefits from Kela. Based on 12 months of residence or long-term employment, Ukrainians can apply for child benefit, housing allowance and other benefits. They also qualify for a Kela card, which allows them to get reimbursements for prescription medicine expenses.
This level of facilitation is unprecedented and has never been done for any other refugee group fleeing other conflicts.
In an example calculation released by Kela, a single-parent Ukrainian family with two kids and no other income or assets can get about EUR 2,380 a month in social assistance, general housing allowance and child benefits. Kela does not release the total cost of benefits paid, but in case all of this group would apply for benefits, a rough calculation based on the population, age and gender distribution (assuming the group would form over 4000 families) would set the monthly bill at €9 – 10 million for Finnish taxpayers.
According to the latest statistics Kela has sent to Helsinki Times; Kela has made a total of 13,506 benefit determinations for Ukrainians between January 1 and June 30, 2023. In this time frame, 4,640 basic social assistance determinations have been made. However, more than one decision may have been given to one customer, so that number does not indicate the number of people who have received basic social assistance.

The benefits most commonly received by Ukrainians are housing allowance, basic social assistance and child benefit. In June 2023, altogether 2,649 Ukrainians received housing allowance and 1,901 Ukrainians received basic social assistance. These numbers include not only the person applying for the benefit but also people living in the same household, for example the applicants’ children.

When a person becomes entitled to social security coverage in Finland it means they’re eligible for the same Kela benefits as all other permanent residents. Kela’s operations and the amounts of the benefits are defined in Finnish law. The same laws apply for Ukrainians as any other people applying for Kela benefits.

Migri officials told Helsinki Times that most people fleeing the war in Ukraine are actually not in Finland as asylum seekers, Instead, they have been granted a residence permit based on the need for temporary protection. The temporary protection directive is an EU-wide measure which was triggered for the first time specifically and only for Ukrainians fleeing the war. This basically has given an express rout to benefits to Ukrainians only, as Kela usually does not pay benefits to asylum seekers while the application for asylum is being processed. A person’s entitlement for Kela benefits depends on the quality of residence permit and permanent residence in Finland. If a person is granted a residence permit in Finland, they are eligible for the same Kela benefits and other social security services as all other permanent residents.

Temporary protection can only be granted to Ukrainian citizens unable to return to Ukraine due to the ongoing war, including citizens of countries outside the European Union, citizens of countries not party to the Schengen Agreement, and stateless persons who had resided in Ukraine legally and whose return to the relevant country of origin safely and permanently is not possible. This category includes African students who were studying in Ukraine when the war broke out.

Also eligible are the family members of Ukrainian citizens and of those granted international protection or equivalent national protection in Ukraine, if the family ties were established in Ukraine before 24 February 2022 and the family member is not a citizen of a European Union Member State, a Nordic country, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland.
Family members do not need to apply at the same time. They can, for example, come to Finland later and apply for temporary protection then.
If the family member is a citizen of a European Union Member State, or a citizen of Liechtenstein or Switzerland, he or she can apply for EU registration.

According to Migri, The highest amount of applications from Ukrainians came in March of 2022 (14,409 applications) and the amount has been slowly declining since then. The first four months of 2023, the amount of applications has been around 2,000 applications per month.

48% of Ukrainians in Finland currently are living in a reception centers, 36% in private accommodation and 15% are living in accommodation provided by a municipality.