1 million flee Ukraine in less than a week, says UN refugee agency

In an email, UNHCR spokesperson Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams wrote: “Our data indicates that we passed the 1 million mark” at midnight in central Europe, based on counts collected by national authorities.

On Twitter, UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi wrote: “In just seven days, we have witnessed the exodus of one million refugees from Ukraine to neighboring countries.

Grandi called for “the guns to be silenced” in Ukraine so that humanitarian aid can reach millions more inside Ukraine.

Such comments reflect growing concerns within the United Nations system, with agencies including the World Health Organization and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – which on Tuesday appealed to UNHCR for funds – expressed their concern.

Syria, whose civil war erupted in 2011, remains the country with the largest number of refugees – nearly 5.7 million people, according to UNHCR figures. But even at the fastest rate of flight out of that country, in early 2013, it took at least three months for 1 million refugees to leave Syria.

Two years later, in 2015, hundreds of thousands of Syrian and other refugees who were mostly in Turkey fled to Europe, causing the European Union to become distraught over its response and at times skirmishes and disputes. push-backs at certain national borders.

So far, UN officials and others have generally welcomed the response from Ukraine’s neighbors, who have opened homes, gymnasiums and other facilities to accommodate new refugees.

UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said on Wednesday that “at this rate” departures from Ukraine could make it the source of “the biggest refugee crisis of this century”.

According to the latest figures from the UNHCR’s online data portal, which still showed 934,000 refugees as of early Thursday, more than half of Ukrainian refugees had gone to neighboring Poland – more than 505,000 – and more than 116,000 had gone to Hungary in South. Moldova had received more than 79,000 and 71,200 had left for Slovakia.

Ghedini-Williams said the figures on the data portal reflected a count to mid-afternoon in Europe, but the agency had received additional arrival estimates for the rest of the day and into the evening.


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