The number of Ukrainian refugees is believed to be over 5 million. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), millions of people have fled Ukraine since the start of the war. The majority of these people have gone to Poland, Belarus, and other neighboring countries in Eastern Europe.
The UNHCR has identified three main groups of Ukrainian refugees:
- those who have left Ukraine and are seeking asylum in another country;
- those who have left Ukraine without a visa or residence permit are considered “irregular migrants”;
- those who remain in Ukraine but are considered displaced persons.
Where are the Ukrainian refugees going?
The European Union has been hit hard by the refugee crisis. The number of asylum requests has increased exponentially over the last year and is expected to continue rising in the coming years. But where are Ukrainian refugees going?
Most Ukrainians have chosen to go to Poland and Belarus. But what about other EU countries?
According to UNHCR Eurostat data as of October 6, 2022, the top five countries with the most Ukrainian asylum seekers are:
- Poland: 1,422,482
- Slovakia: 96, 366
- Republic of Moldova: 93, 117
- Romania: 80, 498
- Hungary: 30, 000
Others have moved to border European countries and even beyond. These countries have opened their borders to Ukrainian seeking temporary residence.
According to the UN, 867,000 Ukrainian refugees live in Germany, and 382,768 more have settled in the Czech Republic. Another 141,562 Ukrainians have resettled in Italy.
What help are countries offering refugees?
The UNHCR says that it provides food, shelter and non-food items to 440,000 people in Ukraine and 300,000 internally displaced people in other areas of the country. It has also released $80m from its emergency fund for Ukraine.
The European Commission has pledged €1 billion (£0.8bn; $1.3bn) in aid to Ukraine over the next two years, with half of this sum coming from the EU budget and the rest from member states’ contributions. In addition, the European Union granted Ukrainians the right to live and work in any of its member countries for three years.
The UK government has also announced £10m ($16m) in humanitarian assistance for affected communities in eastern Ukraine.
The US government has given $8m through USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and $10m through the USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP). It has also pledged $75m to help stabilize the Ukrainian economy and support democratic institutions.
How many people are returning to Ukraine?
The UN says that as of June 21, there have been over 3 million “cross-border movements” back into Ukraine.
That’s according to a report on the situation in Ukraine released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The UN says that most people are returning to their homes in areas near the Russian border, where there has been less fighting than in other parts of the country.
But many others are returning to places where they fear for their safety. This includes those who fled the conflict but returned home earlier because they didn’t want to be separated from their property or needed access to hospitals and schools.
There have also been some cases where people were forced to return against their will, according to UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler. He said this could happen when armed groups force civilians out of their homes so they can use them as military bases or shelters.
Where are people fleeing inside Ukraine?
The UN says the conflict in the country has internally displaced more than 7 million Ukrainians, and that number will likely increase as fighting continues.
The majority of those fleeing have headed west, towards government-controlled territory. But many have also fled south into separatist-held areas. And some have crossed over to other neighboring countries.
According to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) data:
- 16% of refugees were from the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine
- 16% from Kyiv
- 27% from the Kharkiv region
- 24% reported that their homes were attacked and damaged in the war
In addition, more than half of the internally displaced people are women. Many are vulnerable because they have kids, are pregnant, live with disabilities, or are victims of violence.
The UN says it has made contingency plans to help people who flee further inside Ukraine, providing cash, food, and other supplies as needed.
What can you do to help Ukrainian refugees?
The situation in Ukraine is serious. The humanitarian crisis is not over, and the conflict continues to escalate. Here are a few ways you can make a difference:
- Donate money
If you want to help families affected by the conflict, donate money directly to organizations like the International Rescue Committee or Doctors Without Borders.
- Volunteer your time
Organizations like the IRC also need volunteers to help translate, fix computers, and more. You can also volunteer with local groups like the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Toronto Branch or the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Ontario.
- Contact your government representatives
Write letters and emails urging them to support Ukraine by providing aid, financial assistance, and sanctions against Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.
- Donate to the UNHCR
The United Nations Refugee Agency is the leading agency in the world for helping refugees, and it has assisted people fleeing Ukraine since the conflict began. They have helped more than 1 million refugees from Ukraine, including those who have fled to Russia or other countries. In addition, the UNHCR is working with other humanitarian organizations to provide food, shelter, and medical care for refugees in need. You can donate directly on their website.
The refugee crisis is about more than statistics; it’s about people who have lost their homes and have had to leave everything behind and start over. These numbers peel back the veneer of fear instilled by the conflict in Ukraine and show a human story unfolding. But ultimately, more must be done to provide these millions fleeing shelter, food, and services. And whether you donate money or goods or volunteer your time, help someone in need today.