More than 900,000 Ukrainians seek asylum abroad

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 28.06.2015 21:27
Refugees from southeastern Ukraine wait after arriving at a refugee camp in the Russian border town of Donetsk near Rostov Oblast.
Refugees from southeastern Ukraine wait after arriving at a refugee camp in the Russian border town of Donetsk near Rostov Oblast.

For Ukrainians caught in the crossfire of war in the east of the country, a humanitarian emergency looms with more than 900,000 Ukrainians seeking asylum abroad. This growing figure reflects yet another major crisis in Europe

While Europe has been addressing a record 219,000 Mediterranean crossings and the mass influx of Syrian refugees, the scale of the humanitarian and human rights crisis in eastern Ukraine continues to expand. More than 900,000 Ukrainians have fled the violence to seek asylum abroad in neighboring countries, mainly Russia, according to the United Nations refugee agency. As of June 25, more than 1,300,000 people were registered as displaced in the Ukraine, according to data released by the Ukraine Ministry of Social Policy. Renewed clashes in the eastern Donbass region have led to a sharp deterioration of the humanitarian situation, as many Ukrainians have been compelled to abandon their homes and seek asylum in other countries or become internally displaced.

The figures released by the U.N. show a continuing humanitarian emergency in conflict-ridden eastern Ukraine. "Even though Ukrainian asylum-seekers were reported as having applied for asylum in 67 countries or territories, 94 percent of all applications were registered by the Russian Federation. Other important recipients of Ukrainian asylum claims were Germany (2,700), Poland (2,100), Italy (2,100) and France (1,400)," said the UNHRC report titled "World at War."

According to the report, the Russian Federation recorded significantly more individual asylum applications, mainly from Ukrainians who fled the conflict, in 2014 than in previous years. "With a total of 274,700 registered individual asylum requests, the Russian Federation became the largest single recipient of new individual asylum claims worldwide in 2014. This figure includes about 7,000 applications for refugee status and some 267,800 applications for temporary asylum. In previous years, the combined figure had never exceeded the 5,000 mark. The outbreak of conflict in eastern Ukraine had a major impact on the 2014 figures, in light of the fact that 271,200, or close to 99 percent, of claims in the Russian Federation were lodged by Ukrainians," the U.N. report said.

The Ukraine crisis became the eighth bloodiest war, after Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria. According to 2015 U.N. figures, the death toll has already passed 6,000 and is expected to rise unabatedly. The breaches of the Minsk accords has been widely reported, which demonstrates that the months-long crisis in Ukraine's east has yet to be resolved despite a series of mediating talks and peace efforts. Russia's increased militarization of the rebel-held areas in the Donbass region and its explicit support for pro-Russian separatists who are seeking a regional government close to Russia has led to growing tension between Western countries and Russia.

Two separate cease-fire agreements brokered in the Belarus capital of Minsk have failed to stop the conflict in Ukraine, as Western powers accuse Russia of escalating the situation by sending equipment and troops in support of pro-Russia separatists. The cease-fire agreements include the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from combat areas, the withdrawal of all foreign-armed battalions and the release of all hostages and unlawfully detained persons, as well as political reforms and decentralization in the eastern Ukrainian regions. In addition to a series of sanctions against Moscow for what they say are destabilizing actions in the region, the U.S. and European powers recently deployed heavy arms to NATO member countries bordering Russia as a reassurance to allies. Moscow has responded by threatening the West with a nuclear buildup.

After Russia allegedly massed around 54,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko announced the deployment of 60,000 troops to the eastern conflict zone as part of a retaliatory move against Russia.

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