Feb 28, 2022 - World

Refugee groups stretched thin over Ukraine crisis

Data: UNHCR; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

More than half a million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries as Russia continues its invasion of their homeland, according to UN statistics released Monday.

Why it matters: There were 84 million forcibly displaced people around the world as of mid-2021, according to UN data. Russia's invasion of Ukraine, as well as last year's fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, will only add to the global population without a home.

  • "Even before the situations in Afghanistan and Ukraine, the numbers of people forced to flee globally had been rising to new highs for several years," Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement to Axios.
  • "[S]adly, there is no sign that the trend is ending,"

By the numbers: Roughly 520,000 Ukrainians have now fled to neighboring countries, according to UN figures as of late Monday afternoon.

  • Most (281,000) have headed to Poland, while Hungary has received 94,000.
  • At least 160,000 people have also been internally displaced inside Ukraine, Martin Griffiths, UN emergency relief coordinator, said on Monday.

The big picture: With so many global crises, refugee and humanitarian groups "are all stretched very thinly right now," Bob Kitchen, International Rescue Committee's director of emergency preparedness and response, told Axios.

  • Much of the region's refugee infrastructure has been in Ukraine rather than surrounding countries, complicating humanitarian organizations' efforts to prepare. Many refugee programs in Ukraine have been forced to shut down.
  • Some national leaders now welcoming Ukrainians only recently refused — or reluctantly offered refuge — to people fleeing from the Middle East and Africa, as NPR reported.

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