Larger Than Migrant Crisis: EU Expects ‘Seven Million’ Ukrainian Refugees, Largest Movement Since Second World War

ZAHONY, HUNGARY - FEBRUARY 28: People fleeing the Ukraine board trains after crossing the
Janos Kummer/Getty Images

European Union officials have stated they are preparing for millions of refugees from Ukraine due to the ongoing conflict with Russia, with half a million moving west already, many going to Poland.

European Union (EU) Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson stated that she did not know the exact number of people who may arrive from Ukraine due to the Russian invasion but said, “I think we will have to prepare for millions.”

EU colleague Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, has said the presently expected number of “displaced Ukrainians” to be “over seven million people”, citing the United Nations.

The United Nations, for their part, have predicted that as many as four to seven million people may try and seek refuge after fleeing the invasion, a number that could far surpass the number of asylum seekers who entered the EU during the 2015 migrant crisis, broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports.

Refugees from Ukraine are being accepted without visa documents and will be allowed to remain in the European Union for up to three years after the 27 member states of the union agreed to the measures over the weekend.

Since the start of the Russian invasion last week, Poland has reported that around 200,000 people have crossed the border as of Sunday. Women, children and elderly men were the majority of the refugees as men aged 18 to 60 have been prevented from leaving the country by the Ukrainian government. In all, The Times of London reports, half a million Ukrainians have gone west in recent days, with a further 127,000 from Russian-held areas of Ukraine going to Russia.

While hundreds of thousands have left Ukraine for EU countries in recent days, some African nationals trying to flee the country have claimed that they were stopped by Polish border guards or prevented from getting onboard trains.

“Foreigners are not allowed to cross the Polish border,” one African student studying in Ukraine said on social media, while another stated, “any black person is not allowed to cross the barrier [with Poland]. Only Ukrainians are allowed. Even black women with children are not allowed.”

According to a report from BBC journalist Stephanie Hegarty, African students are being sent to the back of the line in terms of priority at the border.

“A Nigerian medical student at Poland/Ukraine border (Medyka-Shehyni) told me she has been waiting 7hrs to cross, she says border guards are stopping black people and sending them to the back of the queue, saying they have to let ‘Ukrainians’ through first,” Hegarty wrote but later corrected, claiming it was Ukrainian soldiers who had stopped people.

While countries like Poland, Austria, Hungary and others have expressed a desire to open their borders to refugees from Ukraine, others like the so-called “humanitarian superpower” Sweden, have largely refused.

On Monday, United Kingdom Home Secretary Priti Patel refused to relax visa requirements for those fleeing Ukraine but announced that the UK would take in as many as 100,000 people who would be able to stay in the country for at least twelve months.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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