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UN: Europe faces fastest growing refugee crisis 'since World War II'

More than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed into neighbouring countries in the last 10 days, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi tweeted on Sunday, describing it the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since WWII.

Published March 06,2022

More than 1.5 million refugees have left Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's invasion of their country, in what the UN has called "the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II."

More than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed into neighbouring countries in the last 10 days, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi tweeted on Sunday.

The majority of refugees fled to Poland, according to figures from the country's Border Guard, which said around 922,400 refugees from Ukraine had crossed into Poland since the start of the Russian invasion.

On Saturday alone, 129,000 people crossed the border, the authorities tweeted, while on Sunday, 39,800 had already entered the country by mid-morning.

According to data from the Polish Foreign Ministry, the majority of the refugees are Ukrainian citizens, though citizens of Uzbekistan, Belarus, India, Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco, the US and several other countries have also been recorded.

As the population mobilizes to help, Polish President Andrzej Duda has been allowing refugees to sleep in his official residences.

On the initiative of Polish first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda, refugees have already been accommodated in two of the president's official villas for several days, Duda's chancellery chief Adam Kwiatkowski told the PAP news agency. The president's wife intends to pay the refugees a visit soon, he added.

Apart from the presidential palace and the Belvedere Palace in Warsaw, the Polish president has four other official villas at his disposal, including on the Hel Peninsula on the Baltic Sea and in the winter sports resort of Wisla.

Meanwhile, the number of registered Ukrainian war refugees seeking protection in Germany stood at 37,786 as of Sunday, a rise of nearly 10,000 people from the previous day, the Interior Ministry said.

"Since there are no border controls, the number of war refugees entering Germany may in fact already be far higher," a ministry spokesperson said.

Around 3,700 refugees from the conflict have also arrived in Greece, of whom 1,146 were minors, the Greek Civil Protection Ministry announced on Sunday.

In the past 24 hours, the Greek authorities logged a further 640 arrivals. The majority of the latest arrivals entered the country at the Promahon border crossing point from Bulgaria, according to the authorities.

Most of the refugees to have arrived so far were intending to stay with relatives or acquaintances, officials said.

Many Ukrainians emigrated to Greece after the collapse of the Soviet Union. There are also around 100,000 Ukrainians of Greek descent living in south-eastern Ukraine, according to estimates.

The Athens government has offered ethnic Greeks extra support in their flight to Greece, keeping its consulates in Odessa and Mariupol open despite the fighting.

To date, around 100 Ukrainians of Greek descent have arrived in Greece in three small convoys, state radio reported.

Meanwhile, France slammed Britain for its visa rules for Ukrainian refugees.

Some 150 Ukrainians looking to cross the English Channel from France had been asked by Britain to apply for visas in Paris or Brussels first, said French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, according to a report by the Le Parisien newspaper on Sunday.

The minister had therefore addressed his British counterpart Priti Patel in a letter on Saturday, complaining about an absolute "inadequate response" and a "lack of humanity" on part of Britain, it said.

According to the French side, Britain, which is not a EU member, is currently mulling the establishment of a temporary consulate in Calais, in northern France, to process Ukrainian refugees there directly before letting them cross over.

British Justice Secretary Dominic Raab meanwhile defended his country's visa policies. "If we just open the door, not only will we not benefit the people that we need to, the genuine refugees, but I think we undermine the popular support for this very thing, so I don't think that's the right thing to do," he told the BBC'S Sunday Morning programme, according to the PA news agency.

"We need to make sure that we're acting for those that need our support," Raab said.