The UNHCR (the UN’s refugee agency) has a data tracker monitoring the Ukraine refugee situation. Each day, the number gets bigger and bigger. As of April 4, it sits at 4.2 million and shows no sign of stopping. Behind that number are some 1.5 million children, women carrying babies, elderly people, families whose homes have been destroyed, and many more.
Nearly 60% of refugees have arrived in Poland. Over 400,000 went to Romania, 300,000 to Moldova, almost 300,000 to Hungary, and 220,000 to Slovakia.
While the sheer generosity and warm welcome of these countries is breathtaking, that generosity carries a price, especially for those in which people still struggle to make ends meet — Moldova, for example, is the fourth poorest country in Europe. Welcoming hundreds of thousands of refugees takes an economic toll and wealthier nations must help relieve that toll.
So how is the rest of the world responding to this crisis? The European Union is off to a good start. In a unanimous vote, the EU agreed to let most Ukrainians live, work, and study across the bloc for up to three years. Other countries, though, are dragging their feet.
But Ukrainians will probably need help for many years to come, even if the violence stops right now. Homes, highways, and infrastructure that took decades to build have been destroyed in seconds with the damage done already topping $100 billion so far.
History has shown that refugee situations almost always last longer than they’re expected to and that the initial rush to help can quickly turn to hostility. If Putin’s war drags on for several years, millions of Ukrainians could end up stranded in a legal, financial, and emotional limbo.
Here’s how different countries stack up in their support of Ukraine's refugees and the countries on the front line of the crisis:
How many of Ukraine's refugees have they welcomed? 7,500 refugees, according to the interior minister, Gérald Darmanin. France has said it is ready to welcome 100,000.
What has the welcome been like? At a local level, town halls are organizing temporary accommodation, including for those arriving in Calais hoping to get visas for the UK. The French government has also set up a website to help to connect families offering accommodation with charities while Paris is setting up a special scheme to integrate Ukrainian refugee children in the French school system. Paris’s Gare de l’Est station has been a key welcoming point for refugees, with volunteers helping arrivals with food and advice.
How many of Ukraine's refugees have they welcomed? Over 100,000 refugees according to the federal police.
What has the welcome been like? Germany immediately gave arrivals the right to work and children access to education. The country was also one of the first to offer free trains from Poland, with volunteers on board providing food and water and helping Ukrainians access accommodation or arrange onward travel.
How many of Ukraine's refugees have they welcomed? Around 9,500 visas have been issued to Ukrainians.
What has that welcome been like?Not great. An early incident reportedly saw 150 Ukrainians fleeing the conflict present themselves at the border crossing in Calais only to be told they had to return to Paris or Brussels to get their visas processed — an approach France's Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said “lacked humanity”.
So far the UK has refused to match the EU’s decision to offer Ukrainians open sanctuary, instead operating a limited family reunification and sponsorship system. Under the Homes for Ukraine refugee scheme, ordinary people in the UK can offer to sponsor and house an individual or family to stay with them rent-free, either in their own home or in another property, for at least six months. In return, they will get £350 a month. Experts have warned that the scheme leaves Ukrainians vulnerable to exploitation.
There will be no limit to the number of Ukrainian refugees who can live with UK host families under this new visa scheme. However, critics of the scheme have warned that the community sponsorship puts too much onus on the public and people arriving through the scheme will not be given refugee status, which will limit their access to support.
How many of Ukraine's refugees have they welcomed? Over 23,000 refugees, according to Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
What has that welcome been like? Health care, psychological, legal, and language course assistance is available in reception centers as well as services for integration and professional training.
How many of Ukraine's refugees have they welcomed? “Several hundred”, according to Reuters news agency
What has that welcome been like? President Biden granted Ukrainians the ability to remain and work in the US for 18 months, meaning they don’t have to return to their country. But this only applies to Ukrainians who were already living in the US. According to Reuters, the Biden administration has repeatedly signaled that Europe should be the main destination for people leaving Ukraine.
How many of Ukraine's refugees have they welcomed? 1.8 million refugees, by far the most of any neighboring country.
What was that welcome like? Poland’s door is wide open to Ukrainian refugees. A huge volunteer army mobilized to meet refugees at the border — where they are greeted with placards and tears, and with food, blankets, and health care supplies. Thousands of Polish families have also invited Ukrainians to stay in their homes and Polish teachers have even set up temporary classes for Ukrainian children.
The Polish parliament has also just passed a law to immediately give Ukrainians residency for 18 months and give financial aid to communities, local authorities, and families hosting them.
What was that welcome like? Moldova has welcomed Ukrainians with hot meals at the Palanca border crossing. But Ukrainians arriving in Moldova are being given the option to leave again immediately, bussed straight from the border and into Romania. It’s not that the country doesn’t want to help but Moldova, one of the poorest countries in the EU, is already at breaking point.
How many of Ukraine's refugees have they welcomed? Over 460,000, according to the UNHCR.
What was that welcome like? While many Romanians were woken up by the thunder of explosions coming from Ukraine, they met those fleeing as old neighbors. A four-star Romanian hotel turned their ballroom into a shelter for Ukrainian refugees. Monks have also welcomed Ukraine refugees to a 5th-century Putna Monastery in the hills of north-eastern Romania.
What Needs to Happen Next?
There’s a lot that the international community can still do to help support Ukrainian refugees at the countries that are leading the way in hosting them.
1. Pledge Additional Humanitarian Aid
On March 1, the United Nations launched a $1.7 billion fund to support Ukrainian refugees — including those internally displaced, currently estimated to be 6.5 million people. The funds will help provide shelter, food, water, health services, and more. But much more will be needed to help everyone impacted. Estimates suggest the costs associated with this refugee crisis could be $30 billion a year, or more.
Instead of diverting existing humanitarian efforts towards the crisis in Ukraine, which would pit one group of vulnerable people against another, new and additional spending is needed.
2. Suspend Entry Requirements
Global Citizen has been calling on all governments to waive visa requirements, keep borders open, and offer accessible resettlement routes since the beginning of the violence. That means you UK and USA. You can join us in taking action to call on the UK here.
3. Protect All Refugees
There have been troubling reports of Black people and people of color who’ve fled Ukraine being ignored or discriminated against during their journey. There are also alarming stories that human traffickers are waiting at the border, putting particularly women and children at risk. This must be stopped and governments must do their part to protect all refugees affected by the violence in Ukraine.
4. Get Better at Communication
Governments should also strengthen the exchange of information (basically, who is doing what) on support delivered to Ukraine so they’re all singing from the same song sheet and to make sure every base is covered.
5. Help EU Nations Hosting Refugees
As you’ve seen from the list, some countries are hosting more than others. EU member states hosting fewer refugees must give directly to the countries bearing the brunt of the exodus. As well as going towards immediate needs, this money should go towards helping refugees access education, jobs, health care, and housing.
You can join us in taking action to call on the international community to do all they can to support people impacted by this crisis, and all people facing crisis and conflict globally. Find out more and take action here.