Saturday, April 1, 2023

Ukraine refugees close to 40 million. Will migration slow down?

MEDYKA, Poland – Recession for good or temporary peace during a storm of war?

While the number of refugees flooded from Ukraine is close to 4 million, fewer people have crossed the border in recent days. Border guards, aid agencies and refugees themselves say Russia’s unexpected war on Ukraine gives some indication of whether it is just a pause or a permanent drop-off.

Some Ukrainians are stepping in to fight it or help defend their country. Others have left their homes, but have stayed elsewhere in Ukraine waiting to see how the wind of war will blow. Still others are elderly or ill and need extra help to get anywhere. And some remain, as one refugee said, because “the homeland is the homeland.”

In the first two weeks after Russia’s invasion on February 24, about 2.5 million people out of Ukraine’s pre-war population of 44 million left the country to escape bombs and bloodshed. In the second two weeks, the number of refugees was almost halved.

According to the latest figures announced on Monday from UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, the total exodus now stands at 3.87 million, including figures as of Sunday. But in the past 24 hours, only 45,000 people crossed Ukraine’s borders in search of safety, the slowest one-day count ever, and the number has not exceeded 50,000 in four of the past five days. In contrast, more than 200,000 people left Ukraine in one day on March 6 and March 7.

“Those who were determined to leave when the war broke out, fled in the first days,” explained Anna Michalska, a spokesman for Polish border guards.

Even though migration is getting easier, its scope cannot be underestimated.

The UNHCR says the war has created Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, and the pace and breadth of refugees in countries including Poland, Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia – as well as Russia – has been increasing in recent times. Unprecedented in. Poland alone has taken in 2.3 million and Romania has taken in about 600,000 refugees. The United States has vowed to take in 100,000.

Even the devastating 11-year war in Syria, the source of the world’s biggest refugee crisis, did not evacuate so many people so quickly.

The International Organization for Migration has also estimated that some 6.5 million people in Ukraine have been evicted from their homes by the Russian invasion, but displaced inside the country, suggesting that a large pool of potential refugees is still waiting. Has been doing. The IOM said another 12 million people are believed to be stranded in places where fighting is too intense, or do not want to leave.

Jewish groups have begun efforts to bring vulnerable Holocaust survivors out of Ukraine, but each one requires a team of rescue workers to evacuate such refugees.

“Now I’m too old to run to the bunker. So I just stayed inside my apartment and prayed that the bombs wouldn’t kill me,” said 83-year-old Holocaust survivor Tatyana Zhuravliova, a retired doctor who was transferred last week. Was done in a nursing home in Germany.

Polish border guard spokesman Michalska suggested that many Ukrainians who have already fled have left the areas most affected by the war, and that future fighting may determine whether citizens from other regions decide to flee. .

“We cannot exclude that there will be more waves of refugees in the future,” Michalska told the Associated Press.

Aid agencies are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts, helping those who have already left Ukraine and preparing for a new influx of refugees.

At the border post in Medyka, Poland, shopping trolleys loaded with luggage still ply a short route from passport control through a village in aid tents to buses waiting to take Ukrainian refugees to a nearby town. Huh.

“Maybe people are waiting for it to see if their city will be attacked,” said 31-year-old Alina Beskrovna, who fled the devastated, besieged southeastern city of Mariupol. He and his mother had left the city five days earlier, but they still had to cross 18 checkpoints to reach the border: 16 Russians and two Ukrainians.

He pointed to new Russian air strikes over the weekend near Ukraine’s western city of Lviv, which has been a major refuge for Ukrainians fleeing after an offensive ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Putin is very unpredictable. And looking at what happened in Lviv two days ago, I think it will not stop in my region, it will not stop in Ukraine,” she said. “It will go further, so the world must prepare for more waves to come.”

Oksana Mironova, a 35-year-old refugee from Kyiv, said: “It’s not getting any better – definitely not. We would like to believe it will improve, but unfortunately we need to flee.”

Yet despite Russian air raids destroying apartment buildings, shopping malls and schools, the pull to home remains strong.

50-year-old Olena Vorontsova fled from the capital of Kyiv.

“Many people do not want to leave their homes, because the motherland is the motherland,” she said.


Keaton reported from Geneva. Monica Skisowska in Warsaw, Poland and Kirsten Grischber in Berlin contributed to this report

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