Ukraine war has forced 10mn people to flee their homes, says UN agency

As many as 10mn people have fled fighting in Ukraine, either moving within the country or crossing the border to neighbouring states, the UN refugee agency has said.

“The war in Ukraine is so devastating that 10mn have fled — either displaced inside the country, or as refugees abroad,” Filippo Grandi, head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said on Twitter.

“Among the responsibilities of those who wage war, everywhere in the world, is the suffering inflicted on civilians who are forced to flee their homes,” he said.

Grandi has previously called the Ukraine conflict “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since the second world war”.

Nearly 3.4mn refugees have been forced to leave Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24, the UNHCR portal said in its latest update. An additional 6.5mn people have been displaced internally.

Two-thirds, or 2mn, of those who went abroad crossed into Poland, which shares a more than 300-mile border with Ukraine. About 90 per cent of those fleeing are women and children, prompting UNHCR and other agencies to warn of increased risks of trafficking and exploitation.

The UNHCR estimates that more than 12mn people have been affected in the areas hardest hit by the war within Ukraine, adding that humanitarian needs are “increasing exponentially”.

“Many people remain trapped in areas of escalating conflict and, with essential services disrupted, are unable to meet their basic needs including food, water and medicines,” the UNHCR said last week.

People flee “because they are afraid of bombs, air strikes and indiscriminate destruction”, Grandi said in his latest tweet, even as “humanitarians are doing all they can in Ukraine to reach people in need, often in dangerous circumstances”.

The number of refugees from Ukraine has more than doubled since March 11 when the estimates rose to 2.5mn, with another 2mn displaced inside the country.

On Monday, Ukraine rejected a Russian deadline to surrender control of the besieged port city of Mariupol, the scene of some of the conflict’s heaviest fighting.

The Russian defence ministry said it would open humanitarian corridors out of Mariupol and told Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms and leave.

Local officials reported last week that about 350,000 were trapped in Mariupol, the UNHCR said. In Odesa, authorities have appealed for support to cover the needs of about 450,000 people.

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