UNHCR: More Ukrainians Flee Homes to Escape Fighting

World | September 2, 2014, Tuesday // 18:02
Bulgaria: UNHCR: More Ukrainians Flee Homes to Escape Fighting Local residents stand in line for water in Donetsk, Ukraine, 19 August 2014. EPA/BGNES

The number of people displaced inside Ukraine had more than doubled in the past four weeks due to the fighting in the country’s East, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.

According to estimates of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates 260,000 people were displaced as of Monday, compared to 117,000 in the first week of August, as a result of fighting betweeen Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, in particular around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said the steep rise in the number of displaced over the past three weeks was a deep concern.

"If this crisis is not quickly stopped, it will have not only devastating humanitarian consequences but it also has the potential to destabilize the whole region. After the lessons of the Balkans, it is hard to believe a conflict of these proportions could unfold in the European continent," Guterres said in a press release.

Ninety-four percent of the displaced are from eastern Ukraine and are remaining in the Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kiev regions, UNHCR said.

According to Vincent Cochetel, director of UNHCR's Europe Bureau, shelling had left people in conflict areas with limited access to food, water and other basic necessities. In Donetsk, Makiivka and Gorlovka, the regional authorities estimate there are 20,000 people with disabilities and needing help, the press release said.

The number of Ukrainians seeking refugee status or asylum in Russia increased by almost 66,000 last month. According to data of Russia’s Federal Migration Service, more than 121,000 Ukrainians have applied for refugee status or temporary asylum since January 1.

A total of 4,106 Ukrainians requested asylum in the European Union in the first seven months of the year, compared to 903 applications in the whole 2013. Most Ukrainian applications for asylum were in Poland (1,082), Germany (556) and Sweden (500). In addition, 380 Ukrainians have sought asylum in Belarus, the UNHCR said.

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Tags: Ukraine, refugees, UNHCR, Donetsk, Guterres, displaced, refugee status, Asylum, Russia
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