Ukraine refugees Hungary
A Ukrainian woman and two children wait next to their luggage in the village of Tiszabecs, Hungary, close to the Hungarian-Ukrainian border Image Credit: AFP

In a record time, under two months, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has created one of the biggest refugee crises in recent decades. Since hostilities broke out, more than 11 million people are believed to have fled their homes in Ukraine, according to the United Nations.

Nearly five million have left for neighbouring countries, while another 6.5 million people are presumed to be displaced inside the war-torn country.

This is unprecedented. The sheer scale of suffering and human displacement makes this one of the largest refugee outflows over the past six decades. And as long as the conflict continues, millions more will flee. Already, the flow of refugees from Ukraine is far greater than the numbers from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Challenge for Europe

The ongoing refugee crisis has become increasingly challenging for Europe. Several European countries are likely to face difficulties in terms of managing refugee affairs, given the large numbers of Ukrainians seeking refuge. Poland, Moldova and Romania are among the countries currently facing a tough situation where entire cities have been transformed into shelters, putting severe pressure on housing, hospitals and government assistance programmes.

Europe has come in for genuine praise for its solidarity but also approbation for how poorly some European countries treated refugees from Syria and Africa in the past.

In the meantime, Russia continues its military operations in East Ukraine with Russian forces gaining control of a number of towns and villages. The World Bank notes that damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure has so far reached roughly $60 billion. This is a conservative estimate of course.

UN has warned of an impending crisis of displaced persons inside Ukraine. Those numbers are likely to rise as the conflict grinds on.

Giving peace a chance

With fast moving events, the next few weeks and months are likely to shape the eventual outcome of the Ukraine crisis, and international geopolitics for sure. The international community thus must exert every effort to reach a ceasefire and establish peace in Ukraine.

Last month, Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers met in the southern Turkish city of Antalya, the highest-level meeting of the two sides since the war began on February 24.

The Istanbul process remains the most significant opportunity and still relevant to bringing both sides to the negotiation table and hammer out an agreement that might lead to peace.