People, fleeing Ukraine, wait to board a bus which will take them at the train station in Przemysl, in the border crossing Medyka, Poland. Image Credit: AP

BRUSSELS: President Joe Biden in Brussels on Thursday was expected to announce plans for the United States to accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, as well as others fleeing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, according to three senior administrations official briefed on the plan.

The United States is still fleshing out the details of how the intake of refugees will work, and one of the officials said the number of Ukrainian refugees the United States plans to accept could change before the announcement but that the goal is to admit 100,000.

They would be brought into the United States through a variety of legal pathways, including the conventional US refugee programme as well as more agile mechanisms such as “humanitarian parole,” which the Biden administration used for tens of thousands of Afghans last year during Operation Allies Welcome, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the plans.

Biden - who is in Brussels on Thursday and part of Friday for meetings with NATO, the Group of Seven, and the European Council - will also announce more than $1 billion in humanitarian assistance for those affected by Russia’s war with Ukraine, as well as more than $11 billion over the next five years to help with food security threats.

Call to set up air bridge

Administration officials said that while they expect many Ukrainians will choose to remain in Europe, some of those fleeing their country will want to enter the United States. White House officials have said that many of those who have left Ukraine may want to stay close to their home country because they hope to return.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Monday called for the West to establish an “air bridge” to aid the escape of refugees.

Baerbock said she expects the upcoming effort to be the biggest relocation process since World War II. Despite the barrage of missiles and other artillery hammering every region of Ukraine, the established humanitarian corridors for Ukrainians to flee the country continue to function.

A US official said the goal of efforts between US and European officials is to distribute the refugees across the West - including across the Atlantic - to avoid overburdening any single country. The US offer to take in 100,000 refugees evolved from a lower number earlier in the week, said another official.

Also read

In a fact sheet describing the initiative, the White House said it was “working to expand and develop new programs with a focus on welcoming Ukrainians who have family members in the United States.”

“The United States and the European Union are also coordinating closely to ensure that these efforts, and other forms of humanitarian admission or transfers, are complementary and provide much-needed support to Ukraine’s neighbors,” the document says.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Brussels Wednesday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that the growing flow of refugees flooding into Europe was one of the major topics on the agenda for Biden’s trip. He added that it was important “that we all work together to do our part on the humanitarian element of this crisis both to suffering inside Ukraine and the refugee crisis outside Ukraine.”

“Here Europe has really stepped up in a huge way, and it’s the United States that will be coming with additional commitment on both humanitarian assistance and refugees tomorrow,” Sullivan said Wednesday.

The second part of Biden’s three-day trip, a stop in Poland, will also focus on refugees. Poland so far has faced the largest influx of fleeing Ukrainians, and on Friday Biden plans to hold an event in that country addressing the refugee crisis, including meeting with humanitarian assistance experts.