Where will Ukrainian refugees go?

(NewsNation Now) — A Russian attack on Ukraine could result in as many as five million refugees leaving for nearby countries, Pentagon officials estimated.

Fears of a surge of refugees come as the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council imposed a state of emergency on the entire territory of Ukraine Wednesday, except Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Many of the refugees are expected to head to Ukraine’s neighbor, Poland, the largest European Union nation to border Ukraine.

Poland, which has welcomed large numbers of Ukrainian economic migrants in recent years, particularly after Russia’s incursions into Ukraine in 2014, has been making plans for weeks to accept refugees if it comes to that, said Marcin Przydacz, a deputy foreign minister. Last month, the country said it was prepared to house at least one million refugees in hostels, dormitories and sporting facilities.

Poland is one of the easternmost members of NATO and the EU. Many Poles think membership in those organizations offers a good deal of protection from Russia as Russian President Vladmir Putin seeks to reassert Russia’s authority in a region that he believes should return to Moscow’s sphere of influence.

The U.S. deployed nearly 5,000 more troops to Poland in recent weeks. They come in addition to 4,000 rotational troops the U.S. began sending after Russian actions against Ukraine in 2014. The job of the American soldiers is to reassure NATO ally Poland and to be in place to help evacuate U.S. citizens or Ukrainians should that be necessary.

Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are also all preparing for refugees. Some refugees are expected to head to the United States as well.

Director of Communications for the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America Andrij Dobriansky warned of a scramble between countries if millions of refugees were to evacuate at the same time.

“The reasonable estimates for the full-scale attack on Ukraine is three to five million refugees, it could be up to six to 10. But let’s say it’s three to five million refugees, which country who is in charge of housing feeding? You know, making sure that these people get basic supplies? Where does that come from? There’s no big pot somewhere that’s going to automatically build houses for these people.”

Over the last five years, more than 14,000 Ukrainians have already come to the U.S. under a program that allows religious minorities from the former Soviet Union to gain asylum. Overall, in 2019, 15% of all individuals granted “Asylum status,” were Ukrainian.

A number of resettlement agencies in the U.S. are already preparing for an influx of Ukrainians seeking asylum. One in Ohio is waiting for 74 approved refugees.

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