UN: more than 1.5 million people have already fled the country because of the war in Ukraine

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According to the United Nations, more than 1.5 million people have already fled the country because of the war in Ukraine. This is the “fastest-growing refugee crisis” in Europe since World War II; the UN said Sunday on the short message service Twitter. With fighting intensifying, the number of people fleeing the country every day is likely to continue to rise.

According to UN estimates, four million people may want to leave Ukraine. By the time of the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, there were just over 37 million residents living in the areas controlled by the government in Kyiv.

So far, neighboring Poland has counted the most refugees from Ukraine: since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 964,000 refugees had been registered in Poland alone by Sunday afternoon. The Polish border guard expected their number to rise to more than one million throughout Sunday.

Hundreds of thousands seek protection in neighboring countries

Poland’s roughly 500-kilometer border with Ukraine processed 129,000 people on Saturday alone, more than ever before in a single day. “The clearance is as simple as possible,” said Polish Border Guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska. “It’s a matter of confirming people’s identities, checking documents, and checking databases to make sure they are not wanted, persons. It takes a few minutes.” About 1.5 million people from Ukraine lived in Poland before the war. The country is, therefore, a significant destination for refugees.

Even President Andrzej Duda offers help to refugees: On the initiative of Polish First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda, refugees have already been accommodated in two of the president’s official villas for several days Duda’s chancellery chief Adam Kwiatkowski told the PAP news agency on Sunday.

But many people are also seeking shelter from the war through Slovakia, Hungary, northern Romania, and Moldova. Romania recorded some 227,500 refugees and Hungary over 163,000, while nearly 114,000 people have reached Slovakia. In a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Chisinau, Moldova’s President Maia Sandu asked the international community to help care for the refugees. Since the war began, she said, more than 250,000 people have crossed the border from Ukraine. The former Soviet republic itself has only about 2.6 million inhabitants.

Berlin reaches limits, mayor says

In Germany, war refugees rose to about 37,800 by Sunday – almost 10,000 more than the previous day. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry again pointed out that the actual number of war refugees from Ukraine who entered Germany could be significantly higher, as the data from the Federal Police would only reflect a portion of the refugees, in part because border controls do not exist.

Berlin is reaching its limits in the face of thousands of Ukrainian refugees arriving daily, according to Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey. “We have extremely dynamic events within a week: At the beginning, there were 45 people we accommodated, and now more than 10,000 are arriving a day, and that is a huge challenge that we are trying to cope with by various means,” the SPD politician told ZDF’s “Morgenmagazin” on Sunday.

Paris to London: “lack of humanity.”

Meanwhile, a row flared between London and Paris over Britain’s handling of refugees from Ukraine seeking to travel on to Britain from Calais in northern France.

In a letter to his British counterpart Priti Patel, France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin complained of a “lack of humanity” by British authorities, who were stubborn about granting visas. As a result, 150 of those fleeing the war were told at border posts to travel to Paris or Brussels to apply for tickets to the United Kingdom at British consulates there.

British Justice Minister Dominic Raab rejected the allegations. The U.K. could not simply open the gates; he told the British broadcaster BBC. Such a move would not help “genuine refugees,” he said, adding that it could undermine the support of the British people.

Calls for safe escape routes

Meanwhile, the aid organization Doctors Without Borders on Sunday called for safe escape routes. “Every situation is different, but based on our decades of experience in war situations, we know that one-time humanitarian corridors can be helpful, but they are not enough,” said Stephen Cornish, executive director of MSF’s Geneva operations center.

On more than one occasion, he said, civilians have been encouraged to “use temporary evacuation corridors – but then those who could not or would not flee were met with extraordinary and indiscriminate violence directed at all who stayed behind.”

Doctors Without Borders, therefore, called for all military personnel currently fighting in Ukraine to abide by the rules of war and take all necessary precautions to avoid harming civilians. The NGO said they are obliged to consider them civilians at all times and in all places in Ukraine.

  • source: ORF.at/agencies/picture: hp
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