Not so special treatment

A back-handed Christmas present: the EU takes dire steps to erode the right to asylum. Even the ‘warm welcome’ of Ukrainian refugees is crumbling. The holiday episode of Standard Time is here.

The EU moves toward further restricting asylum. The new pact agreed on 20 December, even refuses a proposed age limit for the detention of irregular arrivals, or family protections.  Yet, refugees continue to cross unconventional paths as they face wars, political volatility, persecution and the worsening effects of climate disasters.

The so-called ‘warm welcome’ Ukrainian refugees got in 2022 was, indeed, a special case, but the bar had already been very low, researcher Olena Yermakova points out. Policy advisor Martin Wager sees cheap political gains governing European policies, even against obvious needs and interests.

Refugees play a defining role in European life and politics. While the EU brags about its commitment to upholding human rights, it at the same time executes repressive measures against them.  This polarity is mirrored in how differently Ukrainian refugees are treated to asylum seekers arriving from other countries. While the former were given temporary protection status fleeing Russia’s aggression, the latter must undergo ever-stricter procedures as their chances of obtaining a protected status erodes.

In this episode, we discuss these conditions of asylum alongside anti-immigration policies, discrimination, and their legal implications with our guest speakers.

Martin Wagner is the Senior Policy Advisor for Asylum at the International Center for Migration Policy Development. He specializes in European and international refugee, human rights, and anti-discrimination law. Wagner has authored several studies on European asylum systems​ and has experience in providing legal assistance, monitoring law enforcement, as well as capacity-building projects in various countries.

Olena Yermakova is an interdisciplinary researcher focusing on Central and Eastern European migration. She was awarded a junior visiting fellowship in the “Ukraine in European Dialogue” program at the Institute of Human Sciences (IWM) Vienna. Yermakova continues her research into Ukrainian labor migrants in Poland at the Research Centre for the History of Transformations at the University of Vienna. 

We meet with them at The Alte Schmiede Kunstverein, Vienna.

Creative team

Réka Kinga Papp, editor-in-chief
Merve Akyel, art director
Szilvia Pintér, producer
Zsófia Gabriella Papp, executive producer
Margarita Lechner, writer-editor
Salma Shaka, writer-editor
Priyanka Hutschenreiter, project assistant


Hermann Riessner  managing director
Judit Csikós  project manager
Csilla Nagyné Kardos, office administration


Senad Hergić producer
Leah Hochedlinger  video recording
Marlena Stolze  video recording
Clemens Schmiedbauer video recording
Richard Brusek sound recording


Nóra Ruszkai, lead video editor
Réka Kinga Pap, conversation editor


Victor Maria Lima, animation
Cornelia Frischauf, theme music

Captions and subtitles

Julia Sobota, Daniela Univazo, Mars Zaslavsky, Marta Ferdebar, Olena Yermakova, Farah Ayyash


‘Historic day’: EU strikes major deal to reform migration policy after three years of bitter debates by Jorge Liboreiro in Euronews

The way home by Olena Yermakova in Eurozine

What do we know about the employment of refugees in Germany? by Herbert Brüker, Yuliya Kosyakova. IAB-Forum. 

Related Reads

One way or another by Chiara Pagano in Eurozine 

A stage of limbo: A meta-synthesis of refugees’ liminality. Ville R. Hartonen, Pertti Väisänen, Liisa Karlsson and Sinikka Pöllänen. IAAP Journals.  


This talk show is a Display Europe production: a ground-breaking media platform anchored in public values.

This programme is co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union and the European Cultural Foundation.

Importantly, the views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and speakers only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor the EACEA can be held responsible for them.

Published 21 December 2023
Original in English


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