Number of Ukrainian refugees surges across globe

By Camille Cox | The Baylor Lariat Staff Writer 

While the Russian attack continues to wreck and displace the Ukrainian people, countries across the globe are preparing for an increase in refugees. 

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reported 4,980,589 refugees have fled Ukraine as of April 18, with some seeking shelter in neighboring countries and others traveling to the United States.

Army veteran and former police officer Pat Sherer left his Arizona home to go help these refugees travel from the Ukrainian border to the Polish border. Sherer said he visited Ukraine before the war began and fell in love with the capital city, Kyiv, making his decision to help during wartime an easy one.

“I met a guy named Eugene in Kyiv, and he took eight hours of his day to walk me around Kyiv and tell me all about the history of the Ukrainian people and Kyiv,” Sherer said. “One thing he told me was that he was afraid that someday, the Russians might invade Ukraine — of course not expecting that to be 10 months later. I told Eugene if they do, I’ll come back, help, fight and do whatever I have to do to help Ukraine. Sure enough, on Feb. 24, I watched on the news, and it was kind of like 9/11 for me. I just felt helpless; I can’t sit at home, and I won’t be able to sleep anyways, so I went online and booked a ticket.”

Sherer said he has been driving families to safety for countless hours, ensuring he does his part to help refugees flee the war.

“They don’t know what they’re going to come back to — that’s if they even come back,” Sherer said.

The UNHCR reported Russia’s invasion made this the largest displacement crisis since World War II. President Joe Biden announced the United States will take in up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to help neighboring countries, such as Germany and Poland, take in refugees.

Joanne Cummings, adjunct professor of political science and former foreign policy adviser, said via email that while most Ukrainians fleeing the war may choose to remain in Europe, the United States’ decision will alleviate pressure for Ukrainians traveling westward.

“The U.S. government decision to allow Ukrainian refugees access for a year will help ease the pressure for those who are able to reach a U.S. border, which is a small percentage of the total number of Ukrainian refugees,” Cummings said. “The logistical challenge is how to manage the flow at the border. This is not a law enforcement issue and will need the coordinated efforts of emergency agencies (local and FEMA), religious groups and Ukrainian community groups. All cities have systems that can be activated for emergency lodging, such as sheltering the homeless during freezing weather. They will need federal funds for additional support.”

Cummings said the United States is a major funder of both the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which both work to provide relief and funds across the globe for countries taking in refugees.

“The U.S. government is a major finder of both UNHCR and IOM for their activities to help refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons) worldwide,” Cummings said. “Because these activities are carried out through UNHCR, with implementing partners, usually national and international NGOs, many don’t realize how essential that U.S. role is. On the other hand, the U.S. accepts refugees at a lower rate than European countries, and all Western countries take a vastly smaller number and percentage than countries close by. This is true of both Syrian and Ukrainian refugees.”

Thousands of Ukrainian migrants are at the border of Mexico and the United States awaiting entry, according to NPR. The influx of migrants has slowed down the process of admission.

“Thousands of Ukrainians have been let in — availing themselves of the avenues that the Biden administration has opened to ease their admission into the U.S. faster than people who have come from other countries,” NPR reported. “But so many Ukrainians have arrived that a backlog has formed.”

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Ukrainians seek refuge in the United States after Russian conflict leaves many displaced. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press