Strengthen support through cooperation in international community

The exodus of refugees from Ukraine is a humanitarian crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of the country. The international community needs to strengthen cooperation and support the refugees.

More than 4 million people — nearly one-10th of Ukraine’s population — have fled the country in the first five weeks of the conflict.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that the speed and scale of the displacement is something that has not been seen in Europe since World War II, emphasizing the seriousness of the situation.

The exodus of refugees is perhaps the best proof yet that the Russian military continues to engage in illegal and inhumane acts, including attacks on residential neighborhoods.

The majority of Ukrainian men have been mobilized for defense. The majority of refugees who have left the country are women and minors. The refugees have concentrated in neighboring Eastern European countries.

The European Union has been quick to adopt a policy of protecting refugees and has decided to allow them to stay and work in the EU area for extended periods without screenings.

The unusually lenient response is a reflection of the growing momentum of support for Ukraine, as not only politicians but also the general public perceive the Russian invasion as a crisis close to home.

Public and private efforts in Poland, where about 60% of the refugees have fled to, deserve special mention. In addition to providing medical care to refugees and allowing children to attend schools, many citizens are accommodating refugees in their homes because public facilities alone cannot handle the influx.

The number of refugees might increase further depending on the war situation. A situation in which the burden falls on a few countries cannot be sustained in the long term. Moldova, a non-EU country with a small population and economy, has accepted a large number of refugees.

It is important for the EU to play a central role in coordinating how refugees should be accepted from now on.

International cooperation is also essential. The leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations agreed at a meeting last month to strengthen support for Ukraine’s neighboring countries and to accept refugees into their countries. “All the world’s democracies have a responsibility to help,” stressed U.S. President Joe Biden.

When a large influx of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa arrived in Europe in 2015, there were conflicts of opinion within Europe over how to share the responsibility of accepting them, which also led to the growth of far-right groups that were anti-refugee. The same mistake must be avoided. Russia must not be allowed to take advantage of such a situation.

Japan must not stand idly on the sidelines. The number of refugees accepted in Japan should be greatly expanded. Japan must urgently establish a system to secure housing and employment support for those who wish to settle in the country.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 3, 2022)