HomeCan the World Cope With Record Numbers of Ukrainian Refugees?

Can the World Cope With Record Numbers of Ukrainian Refugees?

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that since Russia’s invasion, over 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country, 60% having arrived in neighboring Poland. The flow of humanity now streaming out of war-ravaged Ukraine marks the fastest growing and largest refugee situation in Europe since World War II. The crisis also adds to the record number of people — more than 84 million total — who have been forcibly displaced worldwide.

Experts convened by Ethnic Media Services say the European Union’s Temporary Protection Directive, which gives Ukrainian refugees temporary residence status within the bloc, is providing valuable aid, though refugees from other parts of the world, including Africa and the Middle East, are being left out. They also warn that the continued influx will soon begin to tax the capacity of Poles and other EU nations and that the U.S. need to step in to do more.

Natalia Banulescu-Bogdan
Associate Director, International Program
Migration Policy Institute

“Right now the flows across the borders are mostly women and children. Male Ukrainian citizens, aged 18 to 60 are not being let out of the country. This distinguishes this cross border flow from other displacement crises that we’ve seen in the past, where a common pattern is to see single men traveling first.”

“There are also people crossing into Ukraine to fight and the flows are not just Ukrainian citizens. IOM (International Organization for Migration) has estimated that there are more than 470,000 foreign nationals in Ukraine. Around 76,000 of them were international students, many from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.”

“It’s notable that all neighboring countries maintain open borders and since 2017, Ukrainians have enjoyed visa free travel for 90 days with the EU… (but) there are a lot of concerns around protection for vulnerable groups crossing borders, including unaccompanied children, a large population of Roma, and also stateless people who cannot be returned.”

“Ukrainians will now qualify for temporary protection status in the EU for up to three years. This decision was adopted unanimously on March 4 by the European Council. This grants residents access to the labor market and housing, medical assistance and access to education for children.”

“There are big questions around reception conditions. The sheer speed and scale of this flow is truly unprecedented. Most of the major host countries are Central and Eastern European countries with less developed integration capacity.”

Manuel Ortiz
Founder, Peninsula 360 Press
Reporting from Lviv along the border between Ukraine and Poland

“It is very difficult to get to Lviv because there are not only people who are leaving Ukraine, but those who enter to fight or bring in medicine.”

“Today there were two attacks, one in Lutsk, in the north kind of close to Lviv and to the border with Poland. And the other was in Ivano, very close to the border with Romania. That changed the situation here in Lviv because people consider it kind of a secure place. But this morning we heard the sirens, and it was very tense.”

“Some of these people are taking even 30 hours to get here because some of the roads are destroyed or are not safe. The best way is to take the train because they cannot drive at night. Once here, it is kind of like a bunker where people make a big line and they make lists. They have to stay here for hours and it is very cold.”

“After that, the bus takes them close to the border, so they have to walk again. Most people are women with kids and elders and they are bringing in very heavy stuff and they have to walk a lot. Then they have to make another line in a military checkpoint to get a stamp.”

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah
President and CEO
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services

“Vice President Harris is in the region…You’ve seen from the U.S. an initial investment of $54 million from the State Department, followed by another $53 million announced by Harris during her trip. The House and Senate just approved a $13.6 billion package for Ukraine, and a little less than half of that will be for economic and humanitarian aid. It will allow for the provision of food, shelter, drinking water, and emergency health care.”

“In a best case scenario, the Russian invasion would ultimately fail. And many Ukrainians will be able to return to rebuild once it’s safe to do so… But in a worst case scenario, where Russia is frustrated by a lack of progress and we see further attacks, we’ll see a significant uptick, and we expect a larger and sustained exodus, perhaps in excess of the U.S. projection of 4 million refugees. One EU commissioner put the total at a possible 7 million.”

“The Biden administration has been rebuilding the refugee program (after Trump), but five months into the fiscal year from that 125,000 refugee cap, the U.S. has only resettled 6,500 refugees. So that is a troubling low number that means there is certainly capacity to accept a significant number of refugees into the United States.”

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