More than 100,000 people have moved within Ukraine, “fleeing the violence for safety,” the United Nations refugee agency said in a statement Thursday.
“There has been significant displacement inside the country – it seems that more than 100,000 people have moved within the borders fleeing the violence for safety. And there have been movements towards and across international borders. But the situation is still chaotic and evolving fast,” said Matthew Saltmarsh, a spokesperson at the agency.
Refugee resettlement organizations are mobilizing resources to assist displaced Ukrainians, advocates tell CNN. The scale and scope of refugee resettlement is likely to come into focus in the coming days and weeks. But refugee advocates are already warning of displacement — and meeting the needs of refugees — as Russia invades Ukraine.
“Usually, these conflicts and exodus of refugees happens over time. You see a few people, then a few more people,” said Melanie Nezer, senior vice president of global public affairs at HIAS, a refugee resettlement organization. Nezer cautioned that it’s still unclear how long the conflict will last and if people will be able to return home.
“We are working to quickly mobilize resources and connect with partners to establish a response that will provide life-saving support to civilians forced to flee their homes,” Lani Fortier, senior director of emergencies at the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement.
HIAS’ partner in the region, Right to Protection, has been assisting displaced people in Ukraine for years. Since the invasion, staff have been seeking safety, Nezer said.
“Yesterday we were doing work, literally we were out in the field in the east serving our clients, and today everyone is on the move,” she added.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned Wednesday at the UN General Assembly meeting as many as five million people could be displaced “by Russia’s war of choice.”
Some context: The United States has resettled thousands of Ukrainians in recent years. The process, though, can be long and cumbersome, meaning that an influx of refugees to the US is not expected imminently.
“Because resettlement is not the first response in a conflict situation, we're not anticipating huge numbers of Ukrainian refugees through the US resettlement program specifically,” said Jenny Yang, senior vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, another resettlement agency.