Amid repeated calls for borders to be kept open to those fleeing Russia’s military attack, the United Nations refugee agency said Monday that more than 500,000 refugees have so far fled from Ukraine and crossed into neighboring countries.
The latest figure from the UNHCR came just four days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
The country receiving the most so far is Poland, where over 280,000 people entered, according to a spokesperson for the agency. Tens of thousands of people have also entered Hungary, Moldova, Romania, and Slovakia.
European officials say that as many as seven million Ukrainians could be displaced by the conflict.
More than 500,000 refugees have now fled from Ukraine into neighbouring countries.— UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) February 28, 2022
UNHCR is working with partners and local authorities to provide humanitarian aid and support those in need. pic.twitter.com/sgo0uKYgsO
Among the mostly women and children who successfully crossed into the Polish border town of Zosin is 36-year-old Olga, who fled the Ukrainian capital of Kiev with her two- and eight-year-old children.
She told the U.N. agency that her hope is “that the bombs stop. That the killing stops. And that we can go home again.”
The open doors some nations have offered the current wave of refugees has thrown into sharp relief the antimigrant sentiment and policies the same governments only recently put forth toward other groups fleeing conflict from the Middle East and Africa.
Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, for example, said at a press conference Saturday, “We’re letting everyone in.” Just months ago, in December, he said that “we aren’t going to let anyone in.”
And earlier this year, Poland began building a wall on its border with Belarus to block out migrants.
European officials this week are weighing a proposal to give Ukrainian refugees up to three years of temporary protected status.