Europe stares at a massive refugee crisis

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5 million people could flee Ukraine to EU nations, warns EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, reports Asian Lite News

The number of refugees pouring from Ukraine into Europe is expected to be three times larger than those who fled Syria for the continent in 2015-16, the EU’s foreign affairs chief has warned.

“When it was the Syria crisis in 2015 to 2016, we were talking about one-and-a-half million people. Now it’s going to be much more,” said Josep Borrell, adding that 1.5 million people had already crossed into the EU in the last week alone.

“We must mobilize all the resources of the EU to help those countries receiving people, all the countries bordering Ukraine. We will need more schools, more reception centers, more of everything.”

Borrell said up to 5 million people could flee Ukraine to EU nations, with some 200,000 exiting for Poland and other nearby member states in the first 24 hours of the conflict.

“We very much fear there will be 5 million refugees in Europe. This is a reasonable estimate and unprecedented since the Second World War,” he added.

Brussels has warned that “18 million people will be hit by the conflict in Ukraine,” almost half the country’s population of 41 million, which would create an enormous emergency situation with extensive humanitarian demands.

The UN Refugee Agency said it had recorded 1,735,068 refugees on Monday, with 200,000 more added since Sunday.

Poland is hosting the majority of the refugees, caring for 1 million of them. There are more than 180,000 in Hungary and 128,000 in Slovakia.

In the first several days since the start of the military offensive in Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of people have sought safety in Poland.(photo:Twitter/@Refugees)

Biggest crisis since WW II

Since the war began 12 days ago, the number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the country to neighbouring Poland has exceeded one million, the Polish Border Guard said.

“The million people after crossing the border, heard from Border Guard functinaries ‘You are safe’,” the Border Guard said in a tweet.

On Sunday, UN High High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said over 1.5 million people had fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries since Russia’s military invasion began on February 24.

The EU has approved a mechanism Temporary Protection Directive to protect Ukrainian refugees without the normally required lengthy asylum procedures.

But Ukraine’s refugee crisis cannot be seen in isolation. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the world’s cumulative number of displaced people was already 82.4 million before the Russia-Ukraine war. That’s roughly Germany’s population. The world never had so many refugees after World War II.

Drying funds means millions are already losing humanitarian assistance. In war-torn Yemen alone, about 8 million people may be deprived of all aid now, the UN has warned.

Africans prevented from leaving Ukraine

5 million may leave

The number of Ukrainian refugees will rise exponentially, UN officials have warned. Those who have managed to flee their country account for only two per cent of the 44 million people in Ukraine, where nobody knows for how long the war will go on. A massive number of people are stranded in homes, bomb shelters, subway stations and business establishments.

The European Union (EU) estimates that up to 4 million Ukrainians may eventually leave their country. The United States ambassador at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has said that the number could be 5 million.

And it’s not just about people fleeing the country. The UN estimates at least 1,60,000 people in Ukraine have been displaced in their own country due to the war. UN officials have said such people may eventually want to leave their country. The EU believes this figure could reach seven million, and that 18 million Ukrainians will finally be affected by the war in one way or the other.

The EU, a political and economic union of 27 member states in Europe, has relaxed rules to welcome Ukrainian refugees with “open arms”. The UK and the US are making similar efforts. Japan’s prime minister has also said his country will accept refugees from Ukraine.

However, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management has said it’s an emergency of historic proportions. The UNHCR has said the war is making it unsafe for aid workers to travel around Ukraine and help internally displaced people.

The UNHCR has said one per cent of all humanity is now displaced. The number has doubled in just a decade. Some 42 per cent of them are under 18, and nearly 1 million babies were born as refugees between 2018 and 2020 and many of them may remain refugees for years, the UNHCR has said. Another 48 million people were internally displaced in their own countries.

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