Russia’s attack on Ukraine is expected to create “Europe’s biggest refugee crisis of this century”, as more than 660,000 people have fled the fighting in the past six days.
Most women and children with “very few possessions” have left their homes in Ukraine for neighboring countries since the Russian invasion on Thursday, the UN refugee agency said.
People have reportedly waited up to 60 hours to enter Poland while queues at the Romanian border are up to 20 km long, said Shabia Mantoo, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. refugees, during a press briefing in Geneva.
“Many of those who left with only clothes on their backs and very few personal effects will need international support,” UNHCR said on Tuesday.
Neighboring countries, and in particular local communities, are doing “everything” to welcome and support these refugees “but they will need sustained and strong support in the weeks to come”, the agency said.
“UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies will only be able to support displaced Ukrainians inside and outside Ukraine if we can guarantee security and access and if we have the resources and support to do our job,” he added.
Filippo Grandi, UNHCR commissioner, said on Monday that the number of refugees “has increased exponentially”. He noted that in his 40 years of work in refugee crises, he “seldom saw such an incredibly rapid exodus of people.”
Poland has reported that a total of 350,000 refugees have crossed the border since Thursday, including 100,000 in the past 24 hours, Interior Minister Maciej Wasik told state broadcaster Polskie Radio 1.
More than 7,000 Ukrainians have entered Bulgaria since the Russian invasion six days ago, according to Lora Lyubenova, spokeswoman for the General Directorate of Border Police.
Germany said on Monday that 1,800 refugees from Ukraine had arrived in recent days while refugees had started arriving in Italy and Greece.
Janez Lenarcic, commissioner for crisis management at the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, said the war risked displacing “millions of Ukrainians”.
“I urge the entire international donor community to respond equally generously,” he added.