2 million Ukrainian refugees and counting..
Nations and humanitarian organizations are preparing for potentially 3 million more..
Coming into this year, Ukraine's population was approaching 45 million. Nearly 5% of its population have already fled their homes as refugees to neighboring countries. The raw number of current refugees would equate to the entire states of New Hampshire and Vermont uprooting their lives to go north to Canada. Proportionally, 5% of America’s population would mean the entire states of Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and Washington PLUS 1 million more Americans had to leave their homes to cross the border into Canada. The Russian invasion started roughly 2 weeks ago..
More than 1.25 million Ukrainians have escaped to Poland. That's an influx of 2.6% additional people in a nation of 38 million, or what would be >8.5 million people entering the United States proportionally (from name any Latin American country). Multiple news reports are calling the current Ukrainian refugee crisis the worst since WWII but the staggering numbers and extremely short timeline in which this crisis is unfolding is hard to picture when printed as an increasing human tally. In the summer of 2021, the UN reported only 4 countries had more than 2 million refugees - South Sudan, Afghanistan, Venezuela and Syria. Afghanistan over the course of 20 years has 2.6 million refugees. Many returned to Afghanistan but it is too soon to know what returning home would mean for Ukrainian refugees.
Despite three rounds of peace talks, Russia remains unforgiving in it relentless attack on Ukraine. Prior to the 3rd round of talks, Russia offered to create corridors for civilians to leave six Ukrainian cities being bombarded by Russian military forces. All but two routes would have directed Ukrainian refugees to Crimea, Russia and Belarus. President Zelenskyy understandably rejected the offer, yet almost 100,000 Ukrainians have indeed fled to those countries. Yesterday, Russia offered to open escape corridors again during a timed ceasefire though Russian officials have stipulated that Ukraine would have to send a list of people and vehicle registration numbers as a precursor to the corridors being opened..
There is no guarantee Russia won’t alter its demands as peace talks continue - currently they demand Ukraine cease their military actions, change their constitution to remain neutral going forward and acknowledge Crimea as part of Russia while eastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Luhask officially become independent states. Ukraine may not join NATO but agreeing to these other demands seems unlikely as the Guardian reports “multiple [civilian] attempts to evacuate over the weekend were swiftly abandoned when civilians trying to reach safety came under fire.”
While millions remain trapped in Ukraine, the ongoing war has destroyed schools, government buildings, houses and hospitals. “The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed nine attacks on health care infrastructure in Ukraine since the start of the invasion on 24 February.” According to the U.K. Ministry of Defence, Russia continues to violate cease-fire agreements and have been firing on escape corridors, which Ukrainian civilians are using to flee the cities Mariupol and Sumy. U.K.’s ministry said, “those civilians forced to remain continue to suffer from shortages of power, food and water, exacerbated by heavy Russian shelling.”
Of those who have been able to escape Ukraine, they have gone to Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, the countries mentioned above and other European nations. UNHCR Filippo Grandi told CNN that to date most refugees have gone to where they have family connections but “What we fear is a second wave of persons who have a good deal less resources and connections and who will be much more vulnerable.” To help illustrate that issue today, Romania has accepted more than a quarter million Ukrainian refugees yet more than 200K have already left Romania according to the Romanian Border Police, who cannot or will not say where those refugees went to after leaving Romanian borders. According to Grandi, the vast majority of refugees have been women, children and the elderly.
And as recent developments show, the crisis will continue to exacerbate as the war continues. EU’s top diplomatic representative, Josep Borrell told Reuters, “We must prepare to receive around five million people.. We must mobilise all the resources of the EU to help those countries receiving people.. We will need more schools, more reception centres, more of everything."
Five million refugees would represent more than 10% of Ukraine's population. Imagine the ENTIRE state of Texas AND New Mexico uprooting their lives to seek refuge in Mexico..
To meet the moment, David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, told CBS News, “The European Union has really stepped up. In the past, the 27 countries in the European Union have been divided. Today they're united. All 27 countries guaranteeing not just the right to entry, not just the right to work, but the right for every kid to go to school, every adult to access any social services they need.” Germany, for example, yesterday offered 300,000 private homes to Ukrainian refugees as an initial step towards supporting those fleeing conflict.
From the EU’s Tuesday press release: “The EU will ensure immediate support to those fleeing Ukraine. Member States will be able to use Cohesion funding to support refugees in finding jobs, starting or continuing education, and accessing childcare. They can also receive support for counselling, training and psychological assistance. Funding from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will also be crucial to provide much-needed food and basic material assistance.” The European Commission details additional support to also potentially include “additional infrastructure equipment or staff necessary to cater for the needs of refugees. Moreover, Member States may use this funding to develop tailor-made solutions for the long-term integration of people with a migrant background through investments in housing, education, employment, health, social inclusion and care, or other social services.”
And below are just a few of many humanitarian organizations supporting refugees if you would like to support them as well:
..if you want to support Ukraine refugees: