Where are the Ukrainian refugees going?
More … than 677,000 Ukrainians have already fled Russia’s war against their country since Tuesday, and this number is increasing hour by hour.
“Rarely have I seen such an incredibly rapid exodus of people – the largest in Europe since the Balkan wars,” UN Refugee Commissioner Filippo Grandi told a Security Council meeting on Monday. United Nations.
European governments and aid organizations have been planning for their arrival for weeks, but the number of refugees has exceeded those expectations. The UN predicted that 4 million Ukrainian refugees could arrive in neighboring countries in the coming weeks.
Such a large influx would be a “huge burden on receiving states and would undoubtedly strain reception systems and related resources”, Grandi said.
So far, at least 280,000 Ukrainians have gone to Poland, 94,000 to Hungary, 40,000 to Moldova, 34,000 to Romania, 30,000 to Slovakia and tens of thousands to other European countries. A “significant number” also went to Russia, according to Grandi. Most of the refugees are women and children, including a growing number of unaccompanied children. Ukraine has drafted men between the ages of 18 and 60 to fight, banning them from leaving.
Refugees arrive by crowded trains, by car and even on foot after traveling tens of kilometres, queuing at borders for safety and bringing whatever they could fit in their suitcases if they had time to pack. . Those who can afford it have found their own accommodation, but others are staying in government-run shelters, hotels paid for by private companies, churches, or with their families or ordinary citizens who have offered to host them. .
Currently, with the help of the international community, Ukraine’s neighbors are managing to manage the refugees they host. But for them to continue to do so successfully, they will need a lot more supplies and money, and quickly.
There are still long queues at the borders
Neighboring countries have kept their borders open, unlike other migration crises in the recent past. But crossing the border remains an arduous process.
Although Poland accepts refugees without passports, there were mile-long queues at border crossings where people had to wait up to 60 hours to be processed in freezing temperatures and slept in their cars, if at all. The traffic got so bad that the Polish government asked volunteers not to show up at the border unless they had made arrangements to meet the refugees in advance.
There is also a 20-hour queue in Romania, and it takes 24 hours to travel the roughly 60 kilometers from Odessa to Ukraine’s border with Moldova, according to the UN.
There have been reports black refugees, many of whom are third-country nationals who were students in Ukraine, face difficulties crossing. At the Polish border, Ukrainian guards sent blacks to back of the line last week, claiming that “Ukrainians” had priority. Polish authorities said anyone arriving at the border was allowed to cross.
“We strongly condemn this racism and believe that it undermines the spirit of solidarity that is so urgently needed today,” Kenya’s UN Ambassador Martin Kimani said at the Council meeting on Monday. security.
Ensuring that refugees in line have adequate access to food, water and medical support is also an issue. A Nepali man studying in Ukraine said he hadn’t eaten for three days while waiting to enter Poland, and another elderly woman died at one of the border checkpoints, according to The Washington Post.
NGOs tried to help. Chef Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen, for example, delivered 4,000 meals in 18 hours at Medyka, currently Poland’s busiest border crossing. Polish authorities have also tried to streamline processing, but resources and staff at their borders are simply not equipped to handle the current volume of arrivals.
European countries ensure Ukrainians have a place to go
The European community has mobilized to guarantee Ukrainians short- and long-term housing. Local governments have created temporary shelters and civilians are hosting refugees in their homes. The EU has also asked the 27 member countries to grant asylum to all Ukrainians for up to three years, which would give them access to social services and permission to work. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said on Sunday that an “overwhelming majority” supported the measure, but did not specify which countries opposed it.
In Poland, where at least 40% of Ukrainian refugees have gone so far, new arrivals are transported via tourist buses to one of nine reception centres, where they receive meals, medical care, beds and legal information and services. In the town of Korczowa, for example, a makeshift shelter with folding beds was set up inside a deposit. There, they can also meet as a family; Poland was already home to around 2 million Ukrainians before the latest Russian incursion.
Polish civilians also demanded their support for the refugees. Residents of Warsaw, the Polish capital, have announced around 2,500 apartments where refugees can stay. They also flocked to reception centers offering to transport or house refugees and bringing donations of food, water, clothing, sleeping bags, shoes, blankets, diapers, toys, sanitary products, batteries and charging cables for mobile phones.
Private companies have also funded housing for Ukrainians. Airbnb, for example, has offered free short-term accommodation to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and is working with countries in the region to organize long-term stays. There is also an online directory of hotels and hostels that have openings for refugees.
The government, citizens and private businesses will need to continue to build capacity to prepare for even more arrivals, but other EU states have promised to share the responsibility by also welcoming refugees.
Ukrainian refugee population needs more humanitarian support in coming weeks
The needs of the Ukrainian refugee population in Europe are likely to only skyrocket in the coming weeks, and meeting those needs will require money.
The UN, which has set up a Ukrainian Humanitarian Fund, requested a preliminary amount of $550.6 million from member states in addition to the $190 million it had already requested to help support reception efforts in neighboring countries. Humanitarian groups are still assessing the most urgent gaps in assistance, but this money will go towards shelter, emergency relief items, cash assistance, and mental health and psychosocial support for people. refugees.
For its part, the United States recently approved $54 million in humanitarian aid for Ukraine, and Congress plans to release an additional $2.9 billion. However, every day lawmakers deliberate delays the delivery of aid.
The European Commission also said its pledge of 90 million euros in aid on February 28 was just the start.
“Until there, [the needs of Ukrainian refugees] have been met, although I am seriously concerned about the likely further escalation in arrivals,” Grandi said on Monday.