Western Officials Expect Flood Of 4 Million Ukraine Refugees In Coming Days

Russia’s invasion has sparked a crisis of a magnitude not seen since the end of WWII.
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The number of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine could rise to 4 million in the coming days, Western officials have warned.

They said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had sparked “unprecedented movements of people” and a crisis of a magnitude not seen since the end of the second world war.

As of last night, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said 2.2million people had fled the country to escape Russian bombing.

But there are fears that figure could rise to 4 million over the days to come as Vladimir Putin ramps up his attacks on the war-torn country.

The World Health Organisation has 18 verified reports of Russian military attacks on ambulances or health facilities across the country.

“We are working across government, with those other donors, with humanitarian agencies, but I’d just like to stress the sheer scale of this, which is something that we haven’t seen certainly since the end of the Second World War — and that is a real challenge to us all,” one official said.

The UK is sending medical equipment to Ukraine including trauma kits, syringes, analgesics and antibiotics to help deal with the humanitarian crisis.

But the officials said that they expect the trauma needs will soon increase and become more complex due to the refugee crisis.

They said they were starting to see refugees with frostbite, women who cannot get access to maternal health care and people needing mental health support after their homes were bombed.

Unaccompanied children have also started to turn up at borders and women were sharing reception centres with men which raised concerns about sexual violence.

The stark warnings come as home secretary Priti Patel was forced into a U-turn over her refugee policy on Thursday following stinging criticism from her own MPs that the existing scheme was mired in bureaucracy and inhumane.

The home secretary said that from Tuesday, those fleeing war in their homeland with passports will no longer need to go to visa centres and can apply online.

They also will be able to give their biometric information once they have arrived in the UK in a bid to speed up and simplify the process.

Patel had previously blamed security concerns for the government’s refusal to offer asylum to all Ukrainian refugees, as EU countries have done.

But she told the Commons she had now received assurances which enabled her to make changes to the scheme which allows Ukrainians in the UK to bring family members to this country.

There are two routes for Ukrainian refugees wishing to come to the UK.

The first is through the family route which allows refugees to obtain a visa if they have family here.

The second is the sponsorship route which means those without family ties to the UK can be matched instead by businesses and charities.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper responded to Patel’s update by telling her the handling of the refugee crisis had been “shameful”.

On Tuesday former chief whip Julian Smith urged the Home Office to adopt a more “human approach” while backbencher Alec Shelbrooke had earlier told the government to “get a grip”.

In contrast, the EU has said it will waive visa rules for all Ukrainians and allow anyone fleeing the war to live in an EU member state for up to three years.

Boris Johnson defended the government’s decision not to waive visa rules, saying the system in place was as “light touch” as possible but that there was still a need for security checks.

The prime minister told reporters: “I think people do understand that when you have got large numbers of people leaving from a war zone — some of them still armed, perhaps not all of their identities completely clear, their motivations completely clear — it is responsible to have checks.”

Asked whether he felt the UK offer to Ukrainians was less generous than other European countries, he replied: “I think the UK has got an outstanding record of accepting vulnerable people fleeing from war zones.

“I think we have done more since 2015 to settle vulnerable people than any other country.”

He said “more than a thousand” visas had been granted by Wednesday and the numbers “are going to climb very steeply”.

“That reflects the generosity of the British people. We are going to want to welcome Ukrainians fleeing the war zone.”


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