Ukraine refugees: The REAL numbers as desperate Ukrainians flee Putin’s brutality

Ukraine: UK refugee aid is a 'heartless catastrophe' says Schofield

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According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the speed and volume of refugees fleeing the situation in Ukraine amount to the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two. More than two million people – around 50 percent of whom are children –  have now been displaced by the crisis, with desperate people fleeing west to nations such as Poland, Romania, and Hungary, and the EU says it plans to consider Ukraine’s application to join the bloc this week. 

According to the latest figures from the UNHCR, accurate up to March 8, these are the numbers of refugees in each country: 

  • Poland: 1,294,903
  • Hungary: 203,222
  • Slovakia: 153,303
  • Romania: 85,444
  • Republic of Moldova: 82,762
  • Other European countries: 235,745

Russia and its ally, Belarus, have also offered safe passage for refugees fleeing the crisis, although Kyiv has officially rejected these “humanitarian corridors” as “completely immoral”. 

Currently, they have accepted the following number of refugees: 

  • Russian Federation: 99,300
  • Belarus: 592

The UK has come under increasing pressure to increase the number of refugees granted emergency visas as the crisis deepens. 

As of Wednesday, the UK had taken in 760 refugees, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, though official figures from the Home Office show only 300 refugees have been granted visas. 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK needs to “upscale” its efforts, and the Home Office said it has started processing a further 17,700 applications of Ukrainians applying to join relatives in the UK. 

However, reports have shown hundreds of refugees trying to reach the UK are stuck in Calais, with many saying they were turned away for lack of paperwork with chaotic advice on where they need to head for processing. 

After criticism from France that the UK’s approach showed a “lack of humanity”, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she had “surged a Home Office team” to help at Calais and denied anyone had been turned back at the border.

A Home Office spokesperson said the UK stands “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the Ukrainian people and it was “working at pace to process applications as quickly as possible”.

The two UK schemes announced so far require Ukrainians to either have family in the UK, or a designated UK sponsor.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “sensible” to “have some basic ability to check who is coming in and who isn’t”.

The European Union, however, is allowing Ukrainians three-year residency without a visa as desperate people flee for safe haven. 

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Most of the refugees have fled to Poland, with reports of signs in border towns offering help with healthcare and onward transport, with local hospitals delivering babies and treating sick children.

Poland has said it needs more money than the EU is currently offering to host the number of people arriving there. 

The Romanian government is expected to fund the housing costs of 70,000 people for 30 days.

Along with Hungary, it is offering cash allowances for food and clothing. Children are being given places in local schools.

Moldova has by far the largest concentration of refugees per capita, with almost 4,000 per 100,000 residents. 

The Moldovan president has appealed for international help in dealing with the numbers arriving.

This comes as EU leaders prepare to meet for an informal summit in Paris on Thursday, with possible Ukrainian membership of the EU expected to be on the agenda.

 EU summit chairman Charles Michel said in a tweet on Monday: “The EU’s solidarity, friendship and unprecedented assistance for Ukraine are unwavering. 

“We will discuss Ukraine’s membership application in coming days.”

Ukraine first applied to join the EU in 2002, though membership has never been granted. 

On February 28, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky officially signed a fresh EU membership application for Ukraine.

Exactly what Ukrainian EU membership would mean for NATO is unclear – not all EU members are also in NATO, but the obligation of NATO states to one another and that of EU members is complex.

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