Ukraine refugee tally set to hit 8.3 million

Three million more expected to flee conflict, says UN agency

A Ukrainian refugee with pillows and blankets at a centre in Nadarzyn, near Warsaw, Poland. AP

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A further three million refugees are expected to flee Ukraine, the UN’s refugee agency said on Tuesday — taking the total to 8.3 million, double original estimates.

Almost 5.3 million Ukrainians have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, fuelling Europe's fastest-growing refugee crisis since the Second World War.

“The scale of the crisis, definitely the rapidity of people fleeing, we have not seen in recent times,” said UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo.

More than 12.9 million people have fled their homes in the past two months, including 7.7 million displaced internally and those who have left the country, the UNHCR said.

The agency, which initially forecast that up to four million people would leave this year, said it would need $1.85 billion to support refugees in neighbouring countries.

Ms Mantoo said it was “anyone's guess as to when we will reach this 8.3 million figure”.

“These displacements are still occurring every day. Every hour we are seeing people flee Ukraine,” she said in Geneva.

“This has been on such an expansive scale, and the rapidity of this we haven't seen in recent times.”

In the last couple of weeks, the speed of refugees leaving Ukraine has slowed but it is a constant stream into neighbouring countries, with Poland taking the most at almost three million.

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After two months of war, the Ukraine conflict appears likely to produce more refugees than Syria, which after 11 years of conflict resulted in 6.8 million nationals registering as refugees.

The demographics of Ukraine's refugee population differ from many other crises.

Women and children account for 90 per cent of those who have fled abroad, with men aged 18 to 60 subject to military call-up and prohibited from leaving.

The UNHCR said that neighbouring countries had the capacity to respond to the crisis, but that “the scale of refugee arrivals and the breadth of their needs requires further support for national social protection systems and services”.

The UN humanitarian agency, the OCHA, also revised its estimates for the number of people needing help inside Ukraine — up to 15.7 million from 12 million.

Before the invasion, Ukraine had a population of 37 million in regions under government control, excluding Crimea, annexed by Russia, and the pro-Russian separatist-controlled regions in the east.

The OCHA has more than doubled its estimate for how much money is needed to assist people inside Ukraine.

It held a flash appeal on March 1, calling for $1.1bn to help six million people inside the country over three months.

On Tuesday, the OCHA said it now estimated that more than $2.25bn was necessary to address the escalating needs inside Ukraine, and said the appeal was meant to cover assistance through August.

Updated: April 26, 2022, 1:58 PM
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