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Crises, Trauma & Vulnerability

Russia launched a military operation in neighbouring Ukraine on February 24, 2022. It is difficult to predict exactly how many persons in Asia, Africa and Latin America knew about the former Soviet Republic before the Russian invasion. However, people from all walks of life, irrespective of their class, religion, language, nation and political ideology, started condemning Russia for the invasion on February 24. Many used the Ukrainian flag on social media to express solidarity with Kiev. They also slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin for triggering the war. Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC), commented at the end of March that a quarter of the total population of Ukraine had been displaced within a month of the beginning of the war. According to the seasoned Italian diplomat, many of the displaced people left the country to save their lives. The UN official claimed that Europe did not experience such a situation since the Second World War.

In its latest report, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has mentioned that at least 6.5 million people have left Ukraine, with the women and children being among the most affected, while a total of 12 million people are still trapped in the war-ravaged country. The Government of President Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy is using 90 buses to transport people from Kiev and other cities to the border areas, every day. The UN has granted the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) from Ukraine the right to live and work in 26 member-countries for three years on the basis of a contract (signed with those countries). In addition to providing the IDPs with social security, concerned authorities in those countries have taken positive steps to arrange accommodation and medical facilities for them and also have ensured schooling for their children. Another organisation, named The Regional Refugee Response Plan, are helping those who had arrived in Ukraine from different Third World countries. Many citizens of Third World countries have already returned home, safely. The UN has sanctioned EUR 9 million for the displaced people who are suffering from trauma caused by the anxiety.

A woman cries as she walks with her children after fleeing from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at the border crossing in Siret, Romania, February 28, 2022

Meanwhile, UNHCR has confirmed that 5,981,358 Ukrainians left their country till May 10, 2022. Interestingly, the number of registered Ukrainian asylum seekers worldwide was 53,474 in June 2021. The number has crossed 6.1 million in the past three months. Before the Russian invasion, 35,492 displaced Ukrainians took shelter in other European countries. As per the UNHRC, Europe currently accommodates nearly five million Ukrainian nationals. Among them, some people are internally displaced, while others are citizens of two countries, simultaneously. Of the internally displaced Ukrainians, 30% are from Kiev, 36% from eastern Ukraine, 20% from northern Ukraine and 40% are from the western part of the country. The UN is distributing relief items, such as food, cash, tents, folding beds and heat-resistant blankets, among these people in order to protect them from the cold. The World Body has also set up reception centres for those whose residences have been damaged during bombings by the Russian Forces.

According to the UNHCR, the largest number of asylum seekers from Ukraine have sought refuge in Poland (3,251,955), followed by the Russian Federation (772,121), Romania (889,674), Hungary (577,820), Moldova (458,242), Slovakia (406,833) and Belarus (27,108). Most of the Ukrainians have taken refuge in Poland because of the latter’s territorial proximity to Ukraine. Furthermore, they do not have to show any documents stating nationality, et al. for getting asylum in Poland. The UNHCR, the UN refugee agency and some voluntary organisations have joined hands to provide refugees, waiting at the Polish border, with much-needed relief materials. They have also received ID numbers from the Polish authorities. Many Poles have rented hotels to handle the emergency situation, apart from accommodating homeless and displaced Ukrainians at their residences. It may be noted that the Poles refused to help the Syrian refugees a few years ago.

Britain has come out with two schemes to help the Ukrainian refugees. Those, whose relatives live in the UK, shall receive Family Visas; while general IDPs shall get an opportunity to stay at Homes for Ukraine for at least six months. The British Government has also ensured health and education facilities, and social security for the Ukrainian refugees, apart from giving them GBP 350 (per family every month), to meet their other expenses for the next three years. Although nearly 1.5 million people from Ukraine have applied for asylum in Britain, only 70,000 have arrived in the western European country so far. The UNHCR has stated in a report that many families are receiving a huge amount of money every month from the British Government for keeping female asylum seekers with them. In most of the cases, those female asylum seekers have become victims of sexual abuse. Hence, they are likely to be displaced yet again.

The situation in the US is not so good either. President Joe Biden initially thought that the Ukrainian refugees would take shelter in neighbouring European countries. Later, he bowed to international pressure, and announced that the US would grant temporary asylum to at least one million refugees. President Biden also sanctioned USD 1 billion to help Europe overcome the refugee crisis. At a time when hundreds of thousands of stateless Afghan and Syrian people are waiting to enter the US, the Biden Administration has started taking emergency protection measures for refugees from Ukraine.

Ukrainian refugees

There have been allegations since the beginning of the war that Ukrainian women have been sexually abused by Russian soldiers. In the first week of March, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister mentioned several incidents of sexual harassment against women. While briefing the British Parliament on the situation in their country, a four-member constitutional representatives, which included the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, narrated how the Russian soldiers were torturing the Ukrainian women. Even the Russians did not spare old ladies and underage girls. They also sold videos of rapes or uploaded them on different porn sites.

Notably, the Russia-Ukraine War is being dubbed the first Social Media War, as the common people worldwide have started believing in the pictures, videos or comments, posted on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms by netizens and statesmen, more than the media reports. The Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine has invited all the countries to build digital blockade against Russia.

Most Ukrainians do not know English or other European languages. Hence, the refugees are unknowingly accepting many conditions while filling up the immigration forms. Unfortunately, a number of Ukrainian women are being trafficked to different countries. While many women are being forced to choose prostitution, others are lured into drug trafficking. However, States, voluntary organisations and media houses have remained silent on these issues.

At a time when the helpless people of Ukraine are struggling hard to survive, the Ethnic Politics has rocked Europe.

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