Europe had not experienced such a rapid and rapid population displacement since World War II. More than 4 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion just over a month ago, according to the latest figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Or one-tenth of the country’s total pre-war population (including Crimea and separatist territories).
As many as 200,000 people a day fled their country shortly after the arrival of the first Russian troops. The flow has dried up to fall below 50,000 daily outflows in recent days. We have overcome the 4 million refugee barrier that UNHCR had projected for the whole conflict. To this are added almost 6.5 million “displaced persons” within the borders of Ukraine.
Neighbors on the front line
It is difficult to know the exact number of refugees in each country. UNHCR data refer to entries at border crossing points with countries bordering Ukraine. A large majority probably stopped there. But others continued on their way. For the latter, the estimates for each country will be clearer when refugees have applied for “temporary protection” status.
These are people who had no intention of leaving their country but were afraid. The decision to leave was imposed.
UNHCR spokeswoman Celine Schmitt
Neighboring countries are at the forefront. “This is what we observe in the sociology of migration: we are settling in the neighboring country,” confirms Damien Simonneau, a political science professor at Inalco.
Poland therefore has about 2.3 million Ukrainians who have entered its territory, which has increased the ranks of a strong Ukrainian community already present in the country (about 1.5 million people).
women and children
Who are these Ukrainians whom the war pushed to leave everything overnight? It is still too early to know his exact profile, experts say. “We see all the professions. These are people who had no intention of leaving their country but were afraid. The decision to leave was imposed, “said Céline Schmitt, a UNHCR spokeswoman.
We know, however, that the vast majority (90%) are women and children. In fact, all men between the ages of 18 and 60 have been called upon to continue fighting, with a few exceptions (such as parents of three or more children). “It’s an international conflict – the invasion of one country by another – so there is a general male mobilization,” said Matthieu Tardis, head of the Ifri Center for Migration and Citizenship.
These proportions of women and children are, after all, quite close to those traditionally recorded by UNHCR worldwide. “We see it less in Europe where the asylum application is rather male, because the countries of departure are more distant and it is more the men who take the migratory routes that are dangerous,” he said.
This is “a point of concern and concern for UNHCR,” said Céline Schmitt. The women were separated from their husbands, the children of their parents. They are people who need psychological support and who we need to protect against all forms of abuse and violence. ” UNHCR also looks after the identification of children traveling alone, the number of whom is still unknown, to accommodate them with accredited families.
Another concern: the first Ukrainians who had left their country were leaving to meet relatives abroad. But the harder the war, the more lonely and destitute people are thrown on the roads. “They are people who have no knowledge or network and have greater needs,” says Céline Schmitt.
Interpellated, these refugees try to settle down, send their children to school, orient themselves before thinking about resuming their professional activity. The “temporary protection” directive that the EU has activated for the first time gives them access to broad rights such as education, health and employment.