Europe’s first major security crisis in years is in danger of rapidly turning into a humanitarian crisis. The column found that UN agencies, in coordination with European governments, are drawing up plans and scenarios for a significant influx of Ukrainian refugees. Some projections even speak of 5 million potential refugees, depending on the severity of the war.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, long lines of cars were already seen leaving some cities in Ukraine. In Kiev, images of huge traffic are circulating on social media, while another part of the population is looking for shelter in subway stations and cash machines are being taken over by residents looking for some security.
In neighboring countries, the order is also prepared at border posts. The region has been home to two million Ukrainians for years who have left their country in search of work.
In the case of Poland, the government estimates it could see a refugee influx of up to one million people. Two days ago, EU Commissioner for Migration Ylva Johansson led a technical mission to Warsaw to design a reception scheme.
In Slovakia, the authorities also acknowledge that mass migration can occur “in large numbers”.
However, the warning at the United Nations is that the critical situation of Ukraine in recent years has never generated generosity from European countries. The humanitarian package requested by the United Nations of $190 million at the end of 2021 failed to raise even 10% of the amount it needs to meet the neediest Ukrainians.
The Norwegian Refugee Council also sounded the alarm, noting that “frozen pensioners” in parts of Ukraine do not even have the resources to feed themselves.
But the new European conflict is putting populist governments in Eastern Europe at a crossroads. If much publicized their support for the government of Ukraine, its leaders arrived and remained in power using anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric.
One of them is Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who literally put foreigners in border prisons when Europe saw the exodus of Syrians in 2015.
In the case of the Ukrainians, some of these governments have already indicated that the response will be different. There is still no shortage of voices to suggest that these new residents might be welcome, given the workforce shortages in some sectors.
Already in 2015, a year after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, the number of Ukrainians in European countries has jumped significantly. In Poland, they went from 200,000 to 800,000. In Prague, the number increased by 65% in just a few months.
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