Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, millions of Ukrainians have fled their country and fled en masse to neighboring countries in Eastern and Central Europe. By March 31, more than 4 million, or about 10% of all Ukrainians, had left.
The massive scale and speed of the exodus out of Ukraine is unprecedented in recent European history and was last seen during World War II. The escalating refugee crisis highlights the welcoming attitudes of other European countries toward Ukrainian refugees, especially among nations that have historically taken an anti-refugee stance.
Understanding why Vladamir Putin invaded Ukraine is, in some ways, tied to where the refugees go. In 2004, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine set the country on a new path, aligning itself politically and culturally with Western Europe rather than Russia. After the Kremlin-backed overthrow of Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, Putin seized Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, giving Russia control of the economically and militarily important naval base in Sevastopol.
Since then, Putin has sought other ways to regain control of Ukraine, stoking pro-Russian separatist movements in eastern Ukraine and circulating rumors that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s government is full. of neo-Nazis. Prior to the invasion, Ukraine drew closer to European powers such as the European Union and NATO. Just before invading, Putin claimed his goals were to “demilitarize” Ukraine, while officially recognizing pro-Russian separatist groups.
Today, Ukrainian refugees are fleeing to neighboring countries, many of which were also once part of the Soviet Union and have since joined NATO and the EU. Some analysts believe this shared history, along with the common defiance of Putin, has led many Europeans to take in Ukrainian refugees. However, there is a marked difference in Europe’s reception of refugees from Ukraine compared to refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
According to a survey of 18,000 people in 15 European countries, factors such as religion, language skills and country of origin of potential refugees have an impact on the number of Europeans who assess who deserves to be granted security and asylum. Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said this explicitly when he said of the Ukrainian refugees: “These people are Europeans. These people are smart, they are educated people. … This is not the wave of refugees we have been used to…”
Other countries have also pledged to help Ukraine in its efforts to fight Russian forces and accept refugees. President Joe Biden announced $1 billion in military aid and promised the United States would accept up to 100,000 refugees fleeing the crisis. Germany broke its long-standing policy of not sending arms to conflict zones and promised to help Ukraine. The EU has granted Ukrainian refugees a temporary residence permit that spares them from having to apply for asylum in any EU member country, allowing them to move freely throughout Europe.
To determine which countries have taken in the most people fleeing Ukraine since the fighting began on February 24, Stacker compiled refugee data (last updated April 3) from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. . UNHCR compiles these statistics from several government sources in each country, primarily looking at border crossing data, but as the war between Russia and Ukraine is ongoing, these figures are only estimates and do not take into account ignore the refugees who have crossed from one country to another. The only exception is for refugees who crossed the border from Moldova to Romania.
– Total number of recently welcomed Ukrainian refugees: 15,281
Although some Ukrainians have sought refuge in Belarus, it is the only country in the region to have allied itself with Putin and the invasion. Since Belarus shares much of the border with Ukraine, it has been invaluable to Russia in terms of military strategy. Tens of thousands of Russian troops gathered in Belarus near the Ukrainian border in the months leading up to the invasion and were able to easily invade the Ukrainian capital of kyiv from Belarus.
Refugees have also reported abuses in Belarusian asylum camps. Asylum seekers from the Middle East, once promised passage to the EU, are now being driven out of the camps. Refugees from the Middle East can either go to Poland, where they have already been turned away by Polish border police, or go to the active war zone of Ukraine.
– Total number of recently admitted Ukrainian refugees: 301,405
Sharing a short border with western Ukraine, Slovakia has seen a steady influx of refugees, mostly women and children. According to Igor Matovic, Slovak Finance Minister, Slovak households hosting refugees will receive financial assistance from the government. The country also provides military assistance to Ukraine in the form of artillery ammunition and fuel.
Arriving refugees have been welcomed by NGOs providing food and water, hygiene products, medical care and legal advice. Veterinarians are even on hand to care for people’s pets. The Slovak branch of the Order of Malta, a Catholic human rights order, coordinates accommodation and travel for refugees who need to relocate.
#5. Russian Federation
– Total number of recently admitted Ukrainian refugees: 350,632*
Russia has offered Ukrainian refugees sanctuary from the fighting it sparked in Ukraine and has also offered sanctuary in Putin’s ally Belarus. Ukraine’s deputy prime minister as well as leaders of other EU member countries denounced this as a “trap”, meeting the announcement with disbelief.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Russian citizens have fled Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. Many fear a Soviet-era crackdown on dissidents or the inability to leave in the future. Thousands of anti-war protesters in Russia were arrested and a group of Russian activists wrote an open letter condemning the war and establishing an anti-war council. Other outspoken war activists, journalists and critics have been arrested or intimidated in their homes.
*Please note that the Russian refugee admission figures are from March 29, the last time the data was updated for this country.
– Total number of recently welcomed Ukrainian refugees: 390,302
Although the border between Ukraine and Hungary is small, there has been a large flow of Ukrainian refugees into the country, consisting mainly of women, children and international university students. The Hungarians showed solidarity with the refugees, with many volunteers welcoming them at the border and providing aid. Even notorious anti-refugee Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who campaigned on far-right, nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric, voiced support for incoming Ukrainian refugees.
This support stands in stark contrast to Orban’s policy on Syrian refugees in 2015, which earned the country the nickname “Fortress Hungary” due to its unwelcoming nature. Part of the policy, which involved deporting refugees to neighboring Serbia, was ruled by the European Court of Justice as a breach of EU law. Border Police have also deployed attack dogs and water cannons to impede refugees from the Middle East, raising questions about the particularly patchy treatment of Ukrainian refugees.
#3. Republic of Moldova
– Total number of recent admissions of Ukrainian refugees: 394,740
The location of the Republic of Moldova between Ukraine and Romania has led many Ukrainians to seek refuge or pass through this country approximately the size of Maryland. The sudden influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees has raised concerns that Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries, is overwhelmed with limited resources to support aid.
Other neighboring countries with more resources have stepped up to help, with Romania arranging bus services to transport refugees from Moldova to Romania, with support from the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration. Germany has also pledged to take in 2,500 Ukrainian refugees from Moldova to ease some of the pressure.
– Total number of recently welcomed Ukrainian refugees: 643,058
While many refugees who have entered Romania since the Russian invasion have left for other countries, more than 84,000 remain, mostly concentrated in Bucharest, the national capital. The country has made shelters available, even converting part of the huge Romexpo exhibition center into an overflow shelter for refugees.
Dr Raed Arafat, Romania’s interior minister, also said the country was trying to provide refugees with more permanent housing options. Many Ukrainians have expressed their desire to return to their country when it is safe to do so in order to rebuild, but the Romanian government has started to take initiatives for long-term solutions for those who do not plan to return. .
– Total number of recently welcomed Ukrainian refugees: 2,451,342
The vast majority of Ukrainian refugees went to Poland, equal in number to the population of Poland’s largest city, Warsaw. The move to Poland is not surprising, given that the country’s pre-war Ukrainian population was already the largest in the region at 1.5 million.
The Polish government has already passed legislation to help the massive influx of refugees, including allowing refugees to legally stay in Poland for 18 months without a visa, offering financial assistance to Polish households that help house refugees, and payments livelihoods unique to Ukrainian refugees. Ukrainian children have been granted permission to integrate into Polish schools and adult refugees can work without a Polish work permit. Refugees will have access to the Polish healthcare system, and since many refugees are single mothers with children, Ukrainian families have access to financial assistance.