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Debunker: 'Ukrainian refugees are prioritised over host country citizens'


One disinformation narrative which pro-Kremlin outlets have pushed to international audiences is the notion that ‘Ukrainian refugees are prioritised over citizens in host nations.’ has observed this narrative throughout the first year of the war.[1] The narrative takes a variety of forms, ranging from claims that the admission of Ukrainian children to schools will negatively impact local children's education[2] or assertions that policies which enable Ukrainians to access key services, such as healthcare, are unconstitutional or discriminatory against host citizens.[3] Pro-Russia outlets amplified concerns raised by teachers about the apparent impact of Ukrainian children entering the Estonian education system "We did all this at the expense of personal time and the education of Estonian students so far.[4]"


The narrative seeks to pit refugees against host citizens and portray local politicians as prioritising the needs of Ukrainian refugees. This narrative is linked to others, which suggest that European leaders have lost their autonomy. Kremlin propagandists seek to explain any policies which are being introduced to help Ukrainian refugees through the lens of how these could potentially disadvantage others.[5]


This narrative seeks to characterise Ukrainian refugees as taking up essential resources, which ‘should be assigned to pre-existing vulnerable groups in society, instead.’ A viral Facebook post falsely stated “a Ukrainian family of four can collect as much as 90,000 koruna (about $3,700) per month in aid -- far more than the income of an average Czech family.[6]”



  • Kremlin propagandists seek to portray the provision of support for Ukrainian refugees as a drain on the resources devoted to host citizens. This is a false dichotomy designed to pit host nation citizens and refugees against one another. The resources devoted to supporting Ukrainian refugees, such as access to the labour market through residence permits, are intended to enable individuals who have fled Ukraine to integrate into their host nations and begin contributing to local economies and communities.[7] Pro-Kremlin outlets continue to amplify anti-refugee voices in order to create a skewed perception of public support for Ukraine.[8]

  • Pro-Kremlin media coverage presents support for Ukrainian refugees as an issue which divides society. Yet, support for Ukraine remains incredibly high. A recent Eurobarometer poll revealed that 74% of EU citizens approve of the European Union's assistance for Ukraine.[9] Russian propagandists draw upon a familiar strategy of amplifying the views of the minority to suggest that anti-refugee sentiment is the dominant view among citizens.

  • Kremlin propagandists portray Ukrainian refugees as undeserving of the support they have received. Refugees are amongst the most vulnerable people in the world. In the aftermath of Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion in February 2022, millions of Ukrainians were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring countries.[10] Countries around the world have a legal and moral duty to provide protection to those who cannot remain in or return to their home countries due to threats to their lives of freedom.[11] These rights are enshrined in international law by the UNHCR 1951 refugee convention, and the EU temporary protection directive.[12][13]

  • The OECD highlights that Ukrainian refugees have some characteristics which will ease economic integration. While refugees often face additional challenges when integrating into the labour market, compared with other migrants, the OECD have said that the Ukrainian refugees have many characteristics which will facilitate their integration prospects, including: educational profile, existing social networks and immediate access to employment.[14] This combination of attributes will mean that most Ukrainian refugees will be able to begin contributing taxes to the state and won’t be dependent upon state support. OECD analysis also states that, based on the acute labour needs of host countries, “a negative impact in terms of employment or wages for the resident population, driven by the 2022 Ukrainian refugee inflows, seems very unlikely.”[15]

  • This disinformation narrative is an overt attempt to drive a wedge between European citizens and Ukrainian refugees. Kremlin propagandists attempt to undermine the support which Ukraine has received from its neighbours by spreading falsehoods about the domestic implications of supporting Ukraine and presenting a distorted picture of public support for Ukrainian refugees.



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Debunker is a series of disinformation-busting articles from which focus on dispelling the harmful lies and propaganda being pushed by pro-Kremlin sources. Check out the rest of the series at

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