Russia is escalating its war in Ukraine again with a new offensive in the east and rocket attacks on cities across the country. The attacks are likely to accelerate the flow of refugees, which reached a somber milestone this week. According to the United Nations refugee agency, more than five million Ukrainians have fled the country of 43 million people since the war began on February 24.
The flight to the European Union was overwhelming: Poland (2,847,540), Romania (763,769), Hungary (476,213) and Slovakia (346,175). Tiny Moldova, a Ukrainian neighbor and EU candidate, has taken in 428,577. For comparison, the Syrian civil war created about 6.8 million refugees in a decade.
According to the United Nations, Russia has taken in 563,266 and Belarus 23,900. However, the organization acknowledges that “arrival statistics are compiled from a variety of sources, mainly data provided by authorities at official border crossings”. Ukrainian officials say thousands of citizens were forcibly deported to Russia, which Moscow denies. Some media reports have backed the claim, but it’s impossible to confirm exact numbers.
Ukrainians show a clear preference for the EU. Many have stayed in border countries like Poland, others have moved to other countries in the bloc where they can now live and work for at least three years.
Taking in about four million refugees in less than two months – while avoiding the construction of huge refugee camps – is a difficult task. Providing housing, medicine, mental health services and other resources remains a struggle, particularly for less affluent EU nations on the front lines. For Vladimir Putin, the refugees are part of a strategy to put pressure on NATO to end or reduce its support for Ukraine.
The Biden administration finally provided help on Thursday by announcing a program called “Uniting for Ukraine” to streamline the process for refugees reaching the US. The White House had the full range of legal avenues, including the US Refugee Admissions Program, as of 24.” But the visa process was clearly inadequate.
The new program will allow Ukrainians who were resident in Ukraine as of February 11 this year and have an American sponsor to apply for a visa allowing entry for up to two years with the ability to work.
That’s progress, but 100,000 isn’t enough given the number of refugees. This is embarrassing for a nation that successfully integrated refugees from Vietnam and Cuba in the 20th century. How did the notoriously bureaucratic and inefficient Brussels manage to grant Ukrainians the right to live and work in Europe faster than Washington?
No one knows how long the war will last and how many Ukrainians will return home after it ends. But helping refugees in need is important for strategic and humanitarian reasons. The West needs a united front against Russia’s looting, and the support of front-line NATO countries is critical to efforts to defeat Vladimir Putin.
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https://www.wsj.com/articles/five-million-ukrainian-refugees-russia-ukraine-biden-administration-vladimir-putin-11650482713 Five million Ukrainian refugees – WSJ