The United Nations’ refugee agency says more than five million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their country in less than two months since the Russian invasion, creating an unprecedented refugee crisis.
The Geneva-based UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday said 5.01 million Ukrainians had left the country since Russia invaded on February 24.
The figure of five million is a fresh and “staggering” milestone in Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II as the onslaught intensifies in the eastern Donbas region.
Just three weeks ago, when the number reached four million, the UNHCR had said it had exceeded the worst-case predictions.
“In less than two months … we’ve seen about a quarter of Ukraine’s population, more than 12 million people in total, including five million refugees, but also 7.1 million inside the country, have been forced to flee their homes, so this is a staggering amount of people,” UNHCR spokeswoman in Geneva, Shabia Mantoo, told The Associated Press news agency.
Having fled to neighbouring countries, they are met with hospitality and encouraged to continue their active life. Half of the refugees from Ukraine are children, according to the UNHCR.
In Poland, where more than 2.8 million Ukrainians have arrived, they are given Polish ID numbers, the PESEL, which entitles them to work, access to free healthcare, schooling and bonuses for children.