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Ukraine war sets off Europe's fastest migration in decades

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Refugees at the Ukrainian-Moldovan border on Tuesday.

UKRAINIAN-MOLDOVAN BORDER (NYTIMES) – The war in Ukraine has set off the fastest mass migration in Europe in at least three decades, prompting comparisons with the Balkan wars of the 1990s and providing echoes of the vast population displacement that followed World War II.

At least 660,000 people, most of them women and children, fled Ukraine for neighbouring countries to the west in the first five days of Russia’s invasion, according to the United Nations refugee agency, which collated statistics recorded by the national immigration authorities. And that figure does not include those displaced within Ukraine, or who fled or were ordered to evacuate to Russia.

In less than a week, the flight of Ukrainians is at least 10 times higher than the one-week record of people entering Europe during the 2015 migration crisis, and nearly double the number of refugees recorded by the UN during the first 11 days of the Kosovo war in 1999.

The historic westward movement of people has caused lines of up to 24 hours at border checkpoints along Ukraine’s borders with Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania, and prompted a vast humanitarian response by both governments and civilians.

Refugees have been sheltered in repurposed schools as well as private apartments, makeshift camps, conference centres, upscale wineries and even the home of a Moldovan lawmaker.

“We don’t know where we’re going,” said Ms Anna Rogachova, 34, a housewife from Odessa, a Ukrainian city on the Black Sea, minutes after crossing into Moldova with her eight-year-old daughter on Tuesday (March 1) morning. “And we don’t know when we’re coming back.” “Let the world know,” Ms Rogachova said, pointing at a multi-coloured suitcase in the back of her car. “We left everything. We put all our lives in this single bag.” Then, as the snow began to fall, she started to cry.

Some refugees believe the war will end soon, allowing them to return quickly. Ms Rogachova was not so sure.

A displacement stretching out for years would present long-term challenges for Ukraine, which would face a brain drain of rare proportions, and for host countries where resources are limited and anti-immigrant sentiment has run strong.

But it could mean opportunities; Eastern European countries like Moldova, which have experienced depopulation for decades, could suddenly find themselves boosted by a large, educated immigrant population. – NEW YORK TIMES

Thursday, March 3, 2022 – 01:00

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