Invasion of Ukraine: More than 1.5 million Ukrainians have fled in the fastest exodus in Europe since the end of World War II | International

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With 1.53 million people fleeing in just a week and a half of war, the Ukrainian exodus is already the fastest of those that have occurred in Europe in eight decades, the UN refugee agency, Acnur, announced this Sunday. “More than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed into neighboring countries in 10 days; it is the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II,” UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi tweeted.

Last Wednesday, UNHCR estimated that four million people "could escape in the coming weeks and months from Ukraine", a country that before the conflict had 44.3 million inhabitants. The exodus, above all, affects women and children, since martial law prevents men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving Ukraine.

The main destination of the flight is Poland, which has already received more than half of the total number of refugees. The number of Ukrainians who have crossed that border is expected to exceed one million this Sunday, after 129,000 entries the day before. On Saturday, the daily maximum number of refugees arriving in Poland since the beginning of the Russian offensive was reached, on February 24, and the total number of refugees from Ukraine through Polish territory reached 922,400. Many Ukrainians escape through Poland because it is the western border – that is, in the opposite direction to the Russian advance – it is wide – it measures more than 500 kilometers – and they usually have family or friends there. One million Ukrainians, mainly economic migrants, reside in Poland, where the language is similar.

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Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova, Romania and Russia account for a third of the arrivals. Refugees generally continue their journey from there to other European countries. The European Council gave the green light this Thursday to the activation of a special temporary protection mechanism by which Ukrainian refugees will have the right to stay in the EU for up to three years, with the right to work and the necessary social assistance.

Refugees in Dorohusk, on the Polish-Ukrainian border, on Saturday, March 5. WOJTEK JARGILO (EFE)

Germany, Holland, the United Kingdom or Italy are some of the countries most mentioned by those who cross through the Siret border crossing, in the north of Romania. Since the beginning of the war, more than 252,000 Ukrainians have entered Romania, 24,846 in the last 24 hours, 9.3% more than the previous day, according to data released this Sunday afternoon by the country's border police. The Romanian government intends to install near the Suceava airport, the main city in the region where the Siret pass is located, an operational center for the arrival and delivery of international humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

The accesses to the border countries are clogged by long queues of cars, which usually go from 10 to 20 kilometers, according to the story of those who cross. It is common for men to drive relatives or acquaintances as close as possible to the crossing. Many refugees choose, in fact, to get out of the vehicle and walk the last few kilometers, despite the cold and snow. Temperatures this Sunday afternoon are one degree below zero and are expected to reach minus eight degrees by the middle of next week.

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