The number of people who have crossed from Ukraine into Poland since Russia’s invasion three weeks ago has passed two million, the Polish border guard announced today.
The influx has been one of the largest movements of refugees in European history and large numbers continue to arrive, with 52,500 people crossing into Poland yesterday and 59,000 the day before.
The Polish government estimates that around three quarters of those who have arrived in Poland remain there, including 300,000 currently being housed in Warsaw, whose population has increased by 17% as a result. Another 100,000 are estimated to be staying in Kraków.
The influx has been met with a mass mobilisation by Polish state institutions, businesses, religious organisations, and civil society to help the new arrivals, and a new poll indicates that almost 95% of the public supports accepting the refugees.
Dzisiaj tj.18.03, o godz. 09.00 liczba uchodźców z Ukrainy🇺🇦 przekroczyła 2 mln. To głównie kobiety z dziećmi.#FunkcjonariuszeSG są pierwszymi Polakami niosącymi im pomoc po przekroczeniu granicy. Często zwykłe słowa wsparcia znaczą najwięcej. pic.twitter.com/ZFligTcfxF
— Straż Graniczna (@Straz_Graniczna) March 18, 2022
According to estimates by the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, more than 3.1 people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on 24 February. Millions more have been displaced internally.
Around two thirds of those who have left the country have crossed into Poland. Among them, around half are children, with women and the elderly making up most of the remainder. Previous reports have indicated that around 6% are not Ukrainian nationals.
Speaking two days ago, deputy interior minister Paweł Szefernaker told Radio Plus that, of the “almost two million refugees who arrived from Ukraine, about 1.5 million have stayed in Poland”. That figure would represent around 4% of Poland’s previous population.
The population of Warsaw has risen 17% due to the arrival of 300,000 refugees from Ukraine
President Duda yesterday “appealed to the entire international community” for help with the refugee crisis. Otherwise “we will be in a very difficult situation” https://t.co/9JBDNfAoBv
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) March 17, 2022
A new poll by CBOS published this week showed that 94% of the Polish public favour accepting the refugees with only 3% opposed. That matched polling earlier in the crisis, which also showed strong support for accepting refugees from Ukraine.
However, a number of large cities – including Warsaw and Kraków – have warned that they are reaching the limits of how many people they can help, and have called on the government to seek international support.
Those calls were backed by President Andrzej Duda this week, who “appealed to the international community to help Poland” deal with the refugee crisis.
Last week, a new law was introduced to support Ukrainian refugees, including legalising their stay in Poland and giving them access to work, healthcare, education and benefits. As of yesterday, 65,000 new Ukrainian children had started attending Polish schools since the Russian invasion, a figure that could rise to hundreds of thousands.
Main image credit: Martyna Niecko / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Agnieszka Wądołowska is managing editor of Notes from Poland. She has previously worked for Gazeta.pl and Tokfm.pl and contributed to Gazeta Wyborcza, Wysokie Obcasy, Duży Format, Midrasz and Kultura Liberalna