EU expects 5M refugees, as UN says more than 1.7M already have fled Ukraine

More than 1.7 million refugees had fled Ukraine as of March 6, the UN refugee agency said in its latest update.

The largest number went to Poland, more than a million, the UN refugee agency said.

A total of 180 163 had arrived in Hungary, 128 169 in Slovakia, 82 762 in Moldova, 78 977 in Romania, while 183 688 had gone to other European countries, the agency said.

The UNHCR said that 53 500 had gone to Russia.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on March 7 that if Russia continued to bomb cities in Ukraine indiscriminately, the EU could expect five million refugees.

“We are going to find ourselves, on the eastern border of Europe, with a major problem,” Borrell told reporters.

“In concrete terms, all the resources of the European Union must be mobilised to help the countries which will receive these [migratory] flows. We have to help Poland, we have to help all the countries that have a border with Ukraine to establish the means necessary to receive these people,” Borrell said.

This meant more money, more reception capacity, more provisions, more food aid, schools and reception camps, he said.

European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, speaking on March 7 in Brussels at a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, said: “Given the Kremlin’s recklessness towards civilians, we are working on further sanctions”.

“As you know, we had three packages of hard-hitting sanctions already, but now we have to make sure that there are no loopholes and that the effect of the sanctions is maximised,” Von der Leyen said.

“The sanctions in place are really biting,” she said.

Von der Leyen said that she would be discussing energy issues with Draghi.

“We have to get rid of the dependency on Russian gas, oil and coal. I know that the two of us agree on this,” she said.

The European Commission would be putting forward proposals on March 8 in this regard, Von der Leyen said.

The main pillars of these proposals are to include diversification of supply away from Russia and towards reliable suppliers.

“This is mainly LNG and pipeline gas. Both have the advantage that the infrastructure is over time, hydrogen-compatible,” Von der Leyen said.

“The second main element is to repower the European Union. Repower means massive investment in renewables, like solar, wind and hydrogen. We are looking for a focused acceleration of the European Green Deal.”

Von der Leyen said that also to be discussed was consumer protection.

“Today’s energy prices are taking a toll on consumers and businesses. We will discuss how to ensure that our electricity market remains efficient despite the high gas prices that have been amplified by Putin’s war,” she said.

She said that the immediate dimension was to shield the most vulnerable consumers and businesses.

“And the more structural one is to look at our electricity markets given that our energy mix is transforming.

“Today, we have a certain share of renewables, but a vast share of gas, oil and coal. This will change. With a massive investment in renewables, we will see a wider share and growing share of renewables,” Von der Leyen said.

(Illustration: United Nations High Commission for Refugees)

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