Updated Feb 24, 2022 - World

UN refugee agency urges nations to provide safe haven for displaced Ukrainians

Ukrainian citizens arrive in Poland due to Russia's attack on Ukraine in Medyka, Poland
Ukrainians arrive in Medyka, Poland, in flight from Russia's full-scale invasion. Photo: Agnieszka Majchrowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The UN refugee agency on Thursday urged countries that neighbor Ukraine to "keep borders open" and provide "safety and protection" to Ukrainians fleeing Russia's attacks.

Driving the news: Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine early Thursday, striking targets in several cities, including Kyiv. Dozens have been killed, according to Oksana Markarova, Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S.

  • Neighboring countries have for weeks braced for an influx of Ukrainians fleeing Russia's aggression. The UN refugee agency said Thursday it has stepped up its humanitarian operations in Ukraine and other nations.
  • Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said there has already been "significant displacement inside the country — it seems that more than 100,000 people have moved within the borders fleeing the violence for safety."
  • He added that there "have been movements towards and across international borders. But the situation is still chaotic and evolving fast."
Data: The New York Times; Mapbox/OSCE; Map: Will Chase and Jared Whalen/Axios
Data: The New York Times; Mapbox/OSCE; Map: Will Chase and Jared Whalen/Axios

What they're saying: "We are gravely concerned about the fast-deteriorating situation and ongoing military action in Ukraine, " UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement.

  • "The humanitarian consequences on civilian populations will be devastating. There are no winners in war, but countless lives will be torn apart," he added.
  • "UNHCR is also working with governments in neighboring countries, calling on them to keep borders open to those seeking safety and protection. We stand ready to support efforts by all to respond to any situation of forced displacement."

Go deeper: Ukraine-Russia latest developments

Editor's note: This story has ben updated with additional details from UNHCR.

Go deeper