| 26 May 2024, Sunday |

Flow of Ukrainian refugees testing limits of central Europe’s capacity

Officials in Central Europe expressed concern on Sunday that they were nearing their capacity to comfortably house some of the nearly 3.5 million refugees who have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion and are now camped in temporary shelters.

According to data compiled by the UN refugee agency, the majority of Ukrainians have arrived at border points in Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and Hungary, putting pressure on European Union countries that are now attempting to shelter them.

Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said the government would seek to extend a state of emergency to deal with the influx, with officials trying to relocate new arrivals to cities outside the capital Prague to ease the pressure.

“The Czech Republic is balancing on the edge of capacities where we are able to provide comfortable living conditions,” Rakusan said during a television debate. “Living in gyms, sleeping bags, or campsites is not good for life.”

The Czech parliament also approved three laws this week making it easier for Ukrainian refugees to access to work, health insurance, and allow schools to raise class capacities.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said seven humanitarian corridors would open on Sunday to enable civilians to leave frontline areas.

In Poland, whose Ukrainian community of around 1.5 million is the region’s largest, refugees waited in line for a third day in front of the National Stadium temporarily turned into an administration office to register new arrivals.

More than 2 million Ukrainians have crossed into Poland since the invasion by Russia, which it says is a “special operation” aimed at demilitarising Ukraine, began on Feb. 24. Ukraine and the West say Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an aggressive war of choice.

Warsaw officials say this has increased the Polish capital’s population of 1.8 million by 17%.

“We never know how many refugees will arrive,” Warsaw city council spokeswoman Monika Beuth-Lutyk said. “We have done everything we can and the next move is up to the government to implement a system and to build refugee towns.”

  • Reuters