How can I help Ukrainian refugees? How can I help Ukraine without money?
Nearly one million Ukrainians have left their country after the Russian invasion. How can people support refugees and those still in the country?
The United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that more than a million people have fled Ukraine after Russia began its invasion a little over a week ago.
"I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years, and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in a statement describing the situation. Grandi continued warning that unless the conflict comes to an end, the number of refugees could continue at this alarming pace.
Where are the refugees fleeing?
More than half a million Ukrainians have fled to Poland and hundreds of thousands of others have sought refuge Bulgaria, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, the Czech Republic, and other EU member states. A little under 50,000 Ukrainians have also fled to Russia.
Temporary Protection will be given to Ukrainian refugees
This week, ministers from the European Union are working to finalize a plan to offer Ukrainian nationals temporary protection for up to three year. This immigration status would grant them the right to live, work, access healthcare, housing, and education support. This will allow refugees from Ukraine to bypass asylum process that can be very lengthy.
At this point the European Commission plans to offer this temporary protection to anyone who had been residing in Ukraine for an extended period of time regardless of nationality. For those who had been in the country to study and can be returned safely to their home countries, the European Union hopes to assist them in their repatriation. However, the final details have yet to be confirmed and Poland and Hungary have put up some opposition to having to offer the protective status to non-Ukrainian nationals.
Where can you donate?
Especially during times of crisis ensuring that donations make it to the people who need it, is an extreamly difficult task. With organizations operating under duress and banking infrastructure stretched very thin, those looking to send money to Ukrainians will face many challenges.
When trying to make a donation online, people should be aware at fraudulent websites posing as aid organizations. It is always important to do your due diligence to ensure that the organization your are donating to is legitimate.
Donations can be made to traditional aid organizations Médecins Sans Frontières or the Ukrainian Red Cross. Other organizations, specifically focused on Ukraine and based in the US include, United Help Ukraine and Sunflower of Peace.
Some have also been trying to support artisans and craftspeople from Ukraine who have shops on Etsy. While there may be serious delays in receiving the product, it is one way to get money into the hands of people in need quickly.
The Ukrainian Military has also asked for direct donations to help them fund the resistance against the Russian military. However, as the situation is fast moving, the ethics and legality of donations to such a fund have been called into question.
For those in Europe, many churches and community organizations are putting together donation drives of goods to send to Ukraine and neighboring countries.
What else can you do?
One option many who live in Europe or the United States have is to contact their government representatives urging them to accept as many refuges as they can. Callers should keep in mind that the crisis in Ukraine is not the only violent conflict in the world that people are fleeing from and that refugees from other countries should be accepted as well. The violence of war knows no race, age, class, or gender and all should be treated with dignity as they search for safety.
In Ukraine, Afghanistan, Palestine, and many other areas, the world of High Commissionaire Grandi, ring true when he says "International solidarity has been heartwarming. But nothing – nothing – can replace the need for the guns to be silenced; for dialogue and diplomacy to succeed. Peace is the only way to halt this tragedy."