EU warns bloc nations to brace for millions of Ukraine refugees

As Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, the EU's executive warned on Sunday that Europe should be prepared for its biggest humanitarian crisis in years.

EU warns bloc nations to brace for millions of Ukraine refugees
A woman gives food to a woman carrying a child after Ukrainian refugees crossed the Ukrainian-Hungarian border in Tiszabecs, Hungary, on February 27, 2022. - Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia invaded on February 24, 2022. The United Nations' refugee agency, UNHCR, says it is planning to deal with up to four million if the situation worsens. (Photo by Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP)

The number of refugees to enter Europe from Ukraine could reach around four million, the EU announced at a news conference in Brussels.

After interior ministers gathered for a special meeting of EU member states to discuss the crisis, leaders indicated that the need to intervene was becoming increasingly urgent.

“We are witnessing what could become the largest humanitarian crisis on our European continent in many, many years. The needs are growing as we speak,” said Janez Lenarcic, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

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He said the number of Ukrainians affected by the conflict in humanitarian terms could be 18 million within Ukraine itself, while seven million people are at risk of being internally displaced and four million could flee the country as refugees.

That’s a figure also echoed by the UN refugee agency.

More than 368,000 refugees, mainly women and children, have fled Ukraine into neighbouring countries so far based on data from national authorities, the agency said on Sunday.
A large number of those escaping have crossed over into Poland, where the authorities have counted some 156,000 crossing since the invasion started early Thursday.

Romani people fleeing Ukraine arrive at facilities of the local Roma community after Ukrainian refugees crossed the Ukrainian-Hungarian border in Tiszabecs, Hungary, on February 27, 2022. (Photo by Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP)
Border guards counted some 77,300 arrivals from Ukraine on Saturday alone. The refugees have arrived in cars, in packed trains and even on foot.
Germany’s rail operator said it will offer free train rides from Sunday to Ukrainian refugees travelling into the country from Poland. 
Up to six trains are running daily from Poland to Germany at the moment, Deutsche Bahn said, but it was preparing to increase that capacity “at short notice”.
Also on Sunday neighbouring Austria announced that its state railway company OeBB would offer free travel to those escaping the conflict.
Austrian Transport Minister Leonore Gewessler said in a tweet that she had agreed with OeBB that “Ukrainians who are fleeing will be able to use OeBB trains without tickets”.
“In these times it is important to help quickly and simply. That it exactly what we are doing,” she said.
Meanwhile, Italy is receiving its first refugees, Italian broadcaster Rainews reports.
Around fifty people made their way by bus, mainly women and children, as their husbands are said to be in Ukraine to fight.
After arriving at the Fernetti border in Trieste, police forces and guards carried out the border controls.
They are reportedly heading to friends’ or acquaintances’ homes, mainly in the north of Italy between Brescia, Vicenza and Milan. Some are also going to Rome.
Some 236,000 Ukrainians have residence in Italy – around 80 percent of those women, according to data from Italy’s national Institute of Statistics (ISTAT).

Member comments

  1. Canada should step up and take a few hundred thousand Ukranian refugees.
    Use this opportunity to meet its immigration targets for a couple of years.

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Switzerland to strengthen military cooperation with the US

At a press conference in Washington on Friday, Swiss Defence Minister Viola Amherd said that Switzerland should cooperate more closely with the US and western defence alliance NATO. 

Switzerland to strengthen military cooperation with the US

The head of the Swiss Government’s Department of Defence, Viola Amherd, told a media briefing in Washington on Friday that Switzerland must strengthen international cooperation, including with the United States. 

Amherd, who has been on a five-day working visit to the USA, said that the war in Ukraine is a massive and brutal violation of international law and must not be tolerated. When it comes to fundamental principles such as freedom, democracy, and the right to self-determination, Switzerland must work more closely with like-minded countries including the US, Amherd said. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Switzerland’s neutrality not immune to impacts of Ukraine invasion

The Swiss politician also discussed how the security environment in Europe has changed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks. Hicks reiterated that the US strongly supports the sale of 36 F-35 fighter aircraft and five “Patriot” ground-based air defence systems to Switzerland.

The deal, she said, builds on a successful security partnership between the US and Switzerland that has lasted for decades, and not only enhances Switzerland’s defence capabilities but also increases interoperability and cooperation with other European partners and the United States.

Amherd also said that Switzerland can and should move even closer to NATO. 

“We still have some room for manoeuvre, even within the framework of neutral law, which allows us to cooperate more closely with NATO and also with our European partners,” Amherd said.