So far, more than 360,000 people have fled the war in Ukraine, says UN | Ukraine
At least 368,000 people have already left their homes Ukraineaccording to the UN refugee agency, and more than 4.5 million could turn up if the fighting spreads, Ukrainian authorities said, with reports of tens of thousands moving within the country alone.
The majority of people run away to one of the 12 border crossings that Ukraine shares with neighboring Poland, where 156,000 people arrived by Sunday morning. According to data collected by UNHCR, others cross the border at one of nine border crossings with Romania or with Hungary, Slovakia or Moldova. Those with relatives in other parts of Europe are trying to get to other places across the EU and beyond.
Most of the arrivals are women, children and the elderly. They carry their belongings in backpacks, plastic bags and suitcases, children hug cuddly toys, and some hold pets under their arms. Border crossing reports contain stories of warm receptions as people arrive often exhausted, some excited to be safe and reunited with relatives, others distraught over what they have left behind.
An internal report by EU officials said there were long waits at most borders, including up to 70 hours to cross the border. Poland and about seven hours to enter Slovakia, and many of them had to spend the night in their cars in sub-zero temperatures.
The robberies were said to be related to the sheer number of attempts to leave, and mainly due to delays at the border with Ukraine, with officials there who were ordered to stop men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving. It is said that the Polish authorities are trying to make it as easy as possible to enter the country. National readiness to accept Ukrainian refugees is very high, mainly due to the 1.5 million Ukrainians already living in Poland and the strong cultural ties between the nations.
Polish and German media reported cases of men bringing their wives and children as close to the border as possible, sometimes handing over the children to their mothers or even strangers, who were then instructed to meet family members already in Poland, working or visiting relatives. Some men looked for people they could trust to keep their families safe before giving them a goodbye hug and returning to Ukraine to fight.
There are also men on the border who have left their homes in Poland and beyond and are waiting to return to their native Ukraine.
Janusz Wolski, a 70-year-old farmer from near Szczecin in Poland, told Der Spiegel that he and his Ukrainian wife had driven 800 km (500 miles) all night with their son to pick up his daughter-in-law and his three young grandchildren from Lviv, who were due to arrive at border crossing in Dorohusk, a village in eastern Poland. He said the plan was for his grandchildren to stay with him at least until the shooting stopped. “Who knows if they’ll ever come back?” he told the magazine. “It’s unbelievable what this criminal Putin is doing to Ukrainians.”
Rescue camps are springing up along the border regions, and thousands of people from host countries come to hand out blankets, water, bread, chocolate and coffee. Local volunteers also provide clean baby diapers and medicine. Some organized field kitchens and distributed bowls Stewwhile others hold handwritten signs offering accommodation and transportation.
EU interior ministers are to discuss how to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine. At least 17 Member States have already offered medical equipment, tents and blankets after Kyiv requested assistance from the EU Civil Protection Mechanism on February 15. An internal memo sent to national capitals read: “All EU member states are urged to respond in the best possible way to the Ukrainian authorities’ request for assistance.”
EU countries dealing with the highest number of arrivals have been told they can activate the aid mechanism to request contributions from other member states to help them manage arrivals. Ministers will also consider giving roles to the EU border agency Frontex and the police agency Europol if the number of refugees continues to grow as expected.
In Germany, in which about 130,000 people of Ukrainian descent live, several federal states offered help. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, bordering Poland, and Berlin promised that the help would be quick and unbureaucratic.
Before the crisis, Ukrainians could travel to the EU without a visa and stay there for 90 days. Now it has been extended to 180 days.
As images of refugees arriving reminded Germany of the summer and fall of 2015, when around 1 million people, mostly from Syria, arrived in the country, national rail operator Deutsche Bahn announced that Ukrainian citizens would only need to show their passports to get free travel. All long-distance trains from Poland to Germany and Berlin would be free “in order to facilitate the onward journey of fleeing people,” a company spokesman said on Sunday.
Meanwhile, across the EU, ordinary people had access to housing and neighborhood help platforms as well as Facebook page enabling Ukrainians and people who provide space in their homes to connect with each other.
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