Russian invasion has forced 6.5 million Ukrainians to flee country, UN says

By Jan van der Made with RFI
Russia AP - Sergei Grits
AP - Sergei Grits

More than 120 million people have been forcibly displaced by war, violence and persecution – a number the UN's refugee agency describes as a "terrible indictment on the state of the world". More than 6.5 million people have been displaced in Ukraine alone, the UNHCR reported on Thursday, World Refugee Day. 

Originally known as Africa Refugee Day, World Refugee Day was marked for the first time on a global scale on 20 June 2001 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

It is described by the UN website as a day to honour people who have been forced to flee their homes.

The latest figures from the UNHCR show that a total of 6,554,800 people have fled Ukraine since the Russian in February 2022.

Most of them went to European countries, including Russia.

Ironically Russia took in a substantial portion of the Ukrainian refugees. The UNHCR figures show that some 1.2 million people fled from the invading army, many of them fleeing violence in the self-proclaimed independent republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Europe has taken in most of Ukraine's refugees, with almost 4.2 million now registered across the bloc.

Germany took the highest number of Ukrainians (1.1 million), followed by Poland (957,000), the Czech Republic (530,000), Spain (over 200,000) and Italy (170,000).

The United Kingdom has taken 240,000 people fleeing the war.

France's position

France accepted only 67,000 Ukrainian refugees, fewer than smaller countries like Belgium (79,000) and Austria (77,000).

Jean-Claude Samouiller, president of Amnesty International France, is concerned that the upcoming snap parliamentary elections may further reduce Paris's willingness to take in refugees.

"More than half of the French electorate voted for parties that have openly opposed, over the last two decades, the rights of exiled people," Samouiller wrote on the organisation's website.

The latest version of an asylum and immigration law, he said, added to the "decline in the rights of exiled people and the deterioration of their reception conditions". 

Earlier this month, Brussels suggested that EU states extend the right of Ukrainian refugees to stay for another year to March 2026 given the war shows no signs of ending.

A majority of EU member states need to approve the extension.

"Given continued Russian attacks on the civil and critical infrastructure across Ukraine, safe and durable conditions for the return of people to Ukraine are not currently in place," the European Commission said.

Global displacement

Earlier this month, the UNHCR reported that forced displacement around the world had once again smashed records, with ongoing conflicts in places such as Gaza, Sudan and Myanmar.

At the end of last year,117.3 million people were displaced. By the end of April, that number had swelled to an estimated 120 million people.

The figure, which has risen for 12 consecutive years, is up from 110 million a year ago – nearly tripling since 2012.

Displacement, the UN said, was being driven by new and mutating crises as well as a failure to resolve long-standing ones.

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024