Humanitarian crisis in Eastern Europe due to Russia's war against Ukraine

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The UN agency says the exodus of Ukrainian refugees is the largest in Europe since World War II. The number of people displaced from their homes has surpassed historic numbers and continues to grow as fierce clashes with Russia continue inside Ukraine's eastern provinces.

The International Organization for Migration reports that there is a record number of new asylum seekers or registered migrants who have left Ukraine because they cannot find refuge at home amid the fighting. As a result, Ethnic Media Services provided a briefing to give a first-hand account of the most important nuances of the conflict.

Poland, border with Ukraine. Reception point for refugees. Photography: Manuel Ortiz / P360 - Global Exchange - Ethnic Media Services

Manuel Ortiz of Peninsula 360 Press, who is now in the conflict zone, says the border between Ukraine and the European Union has become a hot spot in recent years. With constant barricades at checkpoints, the countries are on high alert for terrorism, as well as for the possible entry of people from other countries at their borders.

In addition to this, Western Europe has also been struggling with immigration issues, as a number of relevant population within these border nations wish to save themselves from poverty or war-torn areas by coming to the safer area of Western Europe; however, it is not always easy for them to secure their entry in accordance with the laws and regulations of the European Union.

Refugee shelter in Lviv, Ukraine. Photography: Manuel Ortiz / P360 - Global Exchange - Ethnic Media Services

Ortiz points out that no COVID-19 measures are taken in refugee shelters outside Ukraine, despite the increase of cases in Europe. People who fled Ukraine because of the war know that Russian propaganda is false. They see their compatriots under attack and do not want that fate for themselves or their loved ones. The Ukrainian population has become one of the main victims of the war.

The food situation in Lviv is delicate, Ortiz says. And this situation is expected to be a constant on the border with Ukraine. Ukrainians are fleeing their country to Poland as a result of this conflict, so there will soon be more problems as the number of refugees increases.

Train station in Lviv, Ukraine, where people arrive from all over the country with the intention of leaving the country. Photography: Manuel Ortiz / P360 - Global Exchange - Ethnic Media Services

Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services said the United States should act to help Ukrainian refugees and stop the war between Ukraine and Russia. The governments of countries like Poland that have shelters do not declare any preference on which country the refugees come from, even if it is Russia itself; they just want peace in their region.

O'Mara Vignarajah stated that many ancestors of the white population in the United States have been refugees, but refugees come from all over the world. And since this is an issue that has already impacted many people's lives, she said, "it should not be ignored and more attention needs to be paid" to its importance so that future generations will know our own history to avoid repeating these mistakes.

Refugees advance in Ukraine at the border point with Poland. Photography: Manuel Ortiz / P360 - Global Exchange - Ethnic Media Services

Natalia Banulescu-Bogdan, associate director of MPI's international program and a nonresident fellow at MPI Europe, noted that the conflict is not easy and takes its toll on everyone involved.

War has a profound impact on the psyche of anyone who experiences it firsthand, as well as their family members. For Banulescu-Bogdan, in the case of Ukraine, the war with Russia displaced many people from their homes - those who were lucky enough to escape with their lives. She indicated that "it will be difficult" for these refugees to return home after a while because there have been countless changes due to the effects of the conflict: border closures; increased crime rates; instability at work or school; mental exhaustion resulting from constant anxiety about security and economic stability, to name just a few examples.

"We want to make sure that refugees have the same opportunities as others," Banulescu-Bogdan stated. She noted that taking in only one type of refugee would create an imbalance among other groups of people, who might feel excluded or discriminated against because they are from different backgrounds or religions. The long-term goal is for all those displaced by conflict and terror to return to the opportunities they need in their country.

Ukraine, border with Poland. Photography: Manuel Ortiz / P360 - Global Exchange - Ethnic Media Services

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