Data Focus

Almost a tenth of Ukranians will be refugees by mid-2022: UNHCR data

Parvathi Benu | Updated on: Mar 10, 2022
People gather as they flee, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Odessa, Ukraine March 10, 2022.

People gather as they flee, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Odessa, Ukraine March 10, 2022.

Between February 24 and March 8, since the beginning of the Russian invasion, 20,11,312 people have become refugees in Ukraine

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that by July 2022, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war would have created four million refugees. This is close to the number of refugees that the Venezuelan crisis had created, according to the UN agency’s numbers. It also means that almost 10 per cent of Ukraine’s population will now be refugees.

According to UNHCR’s website, between February 24 and March 8, since the beginning of the Russian invasion, 20,11,312 people have become refugees in Ukraine. “In the first week, more than a million refugees from Ukraine crossed borders into neighbouring countries, As the situation continues to unfold, an estimated 4 million people may flee Ukraine,” the UNHCR says in its website.

Crossing borders

Close to 60 per cent of them, 12,04,403 people, have fled to Poland. Another major chunk of people has left to bordering countries like Hungary and Slovakia. As of March 9, the most movement of people occurred on March 6, out of Ukraine. On that day alone, 208,938 people moved out of Ukraine. UNHCR estimates that by July 2022, Poland alone will house almost 1.5 million Ukraine refugees. Hungary and Romania will receive a quarter million refugees each, 100,000 people will move to Moldova and 60,000 to Slovakia.

Nearly 5 per cent of them have crossed the eastern border to go to Russia. That is 99,300 people. Additionally, another 96,000 people moved to the Russian Federation from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions between February 18 and 23. Speaking about this, Dr Bhaswati Sarkar, a Professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for European Studies, points out that this shows a difference in the Eastern and Western sides of Ukraine. “Those who moved to Russia are mostly Russian speakers,” she says. Russian is also a language spoken by around 30 per cent of the Ukrainian population, according to the Database of State Statistics Committee of Ukraine.

Let’s talk about the money

A huge refugee inflow will certainly impact the economies of host countries. According to their Regional Refugee Response Plan, between March and August, it will require $550 million to solve the refugee problem. As expected, the highest estimate of $202 million is for Poland, while for Moldova, it is $121 million. Six other UN bodies and five non-profits too have partnered with them to work during the crisis.

At the same time, the World Bank on Monday had approved a $723 million package of loans and grants for Ukraine. It also said that it is continuing to work on another $3 billion package of support for Ukraine in coming months.

Throwback 2014

During the Crimea conflict of 2014, UNHCR says that at least 1.4 million people have been internally displaced. Dr Sarkar says that at that time too, most people who crossed borders went to Poland. “After 2014, the movement was much to Poland. In fact, at that time, Poland was accepting Ukranian refugees, because they were culturally similar and followed the same religion,” she says.

At the end of 2021, almost three million people in Ukraine needed humanitarian support including more than 850,000 displaced by conflict, 5,000 refugees and 36,000 stateless people.

How big is this crisis?

Recently, British historian Dr Peter Caddick-Adams called the Ukraine refugee crisis ‘The biggest movement of people since WW2.’ Correcting his statement, he quickly tweeted, I should, of course, have written that ‘this was the largest movement of refugees in Europe since 1945’.”

This is because, though the crisis is the biggest that Europe had seen in a while, is quite small in proportion to a lot of crises that the world has seen in the past. The partition of India and Pakistan created approximately 14 million refugees, while 10 million people fled during the partition of Bangladesh.

Over the past 11 years, the Syrian crisis has displaced 6.7 million people. The UNHCR data says that people started fleeing from the civil war in 2014. The number of refugees only went up since then.Dr Sarkar says that the Eastern part of the European continent that is currently welcoming Ukranian refugees were quite averse to the Syrian refugees. “There were walls between countries at that time to prevent the entry of Syrian refugees. Germany and Sweden were the only countries that accepted them then,” she notes.

The UNHCR estimates that globally 82.4 million people were forcibly displaced, as of 2022. This includes 20.7 million refugees recognised by the body and an additional 5.7 million Palestinian refugees.

Published on March 10, 2022
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