The number of people fleeing Ukraine to escape Russian invasion has passed 5 million in Europe’s worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II, the UN refugee agency said on Wednesday.
Russia’s invasion has triggered a massive displacement of people in the nearly eight weeks since it began, including more than 7 million Ukrainians in the country. UN data showed that 5.03 million had fled Ukraine as of Wednesday.
Most crossed into the European Union through border points in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, where volunteers and governments scrambled to help refugees, mostly women and children, find employment, accommodation and provide support.
“When you look at the number of refugees in central Europe, the number is unprecedented,” said Jakub Andrle, coordinator of the migration program at People in Need, a Prague-based aid group that operates in Ukraine.
“It is also important to remember that the numbers can increase rapidly on a day-to-day basis, depending on the situation on the ground.”
Russia launched what it calls a “special military operation” on February 24 to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine. Kiev and its Western allies reject this as a false pretext. Russia has denied using prohibited weapons or against civilians.
More than half of the refugees entered the European Union via Poland, where many had family members and other connections living in the region’s largest pre-war Ukrainian community.
In Central and Eastern Europe, many residents rushed to the border at the start of the war, bringing supplies to weary refugees, many of whom faced long and harrowing journeys to safety.
Now the focus has shifted to the longer term as cities reach housing capacity, said People in Need migration program coordinator Katarina Pleskot Kollarova. Many stay in temporary accommodation with families or hotels that need the space for the upcoming tourist season, she added.
“The first response was very good, but now governments need to think about the long-term perspective,” said Kollarova, whose group has about 140 people working in Ukraine.
“It is getting difficult, for example, to find places in Prague and it is more difficult to keep large families together.”
Source: CNN Brasil
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