Poland Prepares for a Ukrainian Refugee Crisis

By Yoana Petrova and Barbara Niemczyk

With tensions between Ukraine and Russia rising, bordering countries are starting to prepare for the consequences of a lurking war. Polish municipalities were notified last week that they must be ready for a potential influx of refugees from Ukraine. 

In November 2021, 100,000 Russian troops, as well as tanks and other military equipment, had been deployed on the border with Ukraine. Despite talks of potential de-escalation since then, more Russian troops have arrived and tensions continue to mount.

On the 17th of February, the United States warned that an attack from Russia towards Ukraine could happen shortly, potentially in the coming 24 to 48 hours. According to AlJazeera, this warning came after Washington briefed its allied partners on potential Russian aggression. 

The increasing tensions has led to countries in Eastern Europe to start preparations for a potential refugee crisis. Considering the 44 million Ukraine inhabitants, Poland has already started listing the availability of shelters for Ukrainian refugees.

“Governors have initiated contacts with mayors of the cities. We were asked to indicate the list of accommodation facilities for refugees, the number of people that it was possible to accommodate, the costs involved, the time for adaptation of buildings with a recommendation of up to 48h.” tweeted Krzysztof Kosiński, president of Ciechanów.

According to Business Insider, similar information was reported by a local radio station broadcasting from Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski.

Currently, Poland is home to between 1 million and 2 million Ukrainian citizens, who are considered economic refugees. Until now, it was the case that the Ukrainian people were entering the country for work. If tensions did come to a boiling point, they would be refugees escaping war and Poland needs to prepare for the worst-case scenario. According to Marcin Przydacz, the deputy foreign minister of Poland, quoted by Radio Plus, it is best for Poland to “prepare for large numbers”.

Comparison of reasons on Ukrainian citizens migrating to Poland before the Crimea crisis and after it.

After the annexation of Crimea, Poland has seen a rise in Ukrainian citizens migrating to the country due to political reasons.

It is now too soon to talk about the exact numbers of Ukrainians that might potentially be seeking refuge in Poland if the war in Russia starts. But, with the rising tensions in the East and the prospect of invasion affecting the whole country, it is inevitable that the number of Ukrainian citizens coming to Poland will grow significantly. 

With much information surrounding the tensions, Polish people have raised questions about the consequences of the possible invasion and their safety.

9to5 asked Piotr Głowacki, a local politician in Mysłowice, about sentiments among Poles.

“Some people are afraid that the conflict in Ukraine poses a direct threat to Poland, hence their fears and concern, not only for their neighbours”, said Głowacki.

The prevailing view among Głowacki’s colleagues and friends is that Ukraine needs to defend its territory and “the whole world should support them militarily so that Russia would get out of its mind annexation of even a piece of a foreign country”.

“I am frightened by the attitude of the leaders of Germany and France and their lack of an unequivocal stance and opposition to Putin’s aggression,” he added.

The concerns about Russia’s presence in the region are growing, and the long-term consequences of the tensions remain unclear.

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