Romania has Blocked Aid for Ukrainian Refugees

Published: 04 October 2023

Romania Refugees-by Alex-NicodimThe money provided by the European Commission to help Ukrainian citizens was not spent by the host countries and forced some of the refugees to return to risky areas. (Photo: Alex Nicodim,


Romania has blocked the distribution of EU funds that Brussels had redirected from other projects to help Ukrainian refugees, as revealed by an investigation by OCCRP partner This move left many of those who fled from shells and bullets without income and forced them to return to war-torn Ukraine.

In the face of Russia's full invasion last year, the European Commission instructed Bucharest to redirect funds it had received for other projects but had not yet spent into assistance for Ukrainian refugees. Some of that money was previously meant, for example, for the REACT-EU program, which provided financial relief to alleviate the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly two billion euros were supposed to be available for food and accommodation for over five million people who crossed the border seeking refuge in Romania. However, more than 1.5 billion of it never reached the refugees, as found.

The Ministry of European Funds told that the amount had already been allocated for masks, disinfectants, coveralls, disinfection equipment for schools, and other hospital equipment and could not be spent on refugees.

This means that many beneficiaries of an aid program Romania established at the beginning of the conflict, have stopped receiving money. The program foresees that those hosting refugees should be reimbursed for their food and accommodation costs, but the money stopped reaching the hosts in October, and the program was officially frozen in January.

Then, hosts nevertheless received in May funds that should cover the first three months of the year but not for April and beyond.

Official data regarding the support received by refugees in this program is insufficient, and there is no clarity on the number of beneficiaries.

"The statistics show that just in the period when the money hiccups occurred, the number of Ukrainian refugees decreased. From over 113 thousand in February to 86 thousand at the beginning of June," found.

The program is further burdened by fraudulent claims for compensation by people who have never hosted any refugees. Those cases are now being investigated by authorities.

In Constanța county, where the state has paid out a total of over 300 million lei (US$63.23 million) under the 50/20 program, the outlet claims that authorities recently discovered that landlords had claimed 1.2 million lei ($252,920) for the accommodation and food expenses of Ukrainian refugees, even though the foreign nationals on the claims were not even in Romania at the time.