Over 1 million people have fled Ukraine for Poland since invasion, say officials

A total of about 1.06 million Ukrainians have fled to Poland since the start of the Russian invasion on 24 February, including 142,300 on Sunday, the Polish border guard has said.

“Traffic on the Polish-Ukrainian border is growing, today at 7am, 42,000 people arrived in Poland from Ukraine,” the border guard tweeted on Monday.

Vast numbers of Ukrainian civilians have been fleeing cities under bombardment, including the besieged coastal city of Mariupol.

The UN estimates that more than 1.5 million refugees have crossed into neighbouring countries since the outbreak of war in Ukraine. On Sunday, the UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said after visiting the Moldovan border that the situation would only get worse.

“This will be a more complex situation,” he said, after having tweeted on Sunday: “More than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed into neighbouring countries in 10 days.”

Officials said many of the refugees who had arrived in other countries had friends and places to go to, but Grandi said the growing number of refugees would put pressure on governments to absorb them.

Grandi said: “These governments have done very well in their initial response. They were well prepared. But if the numbers continue to grow it will be a problem.”

Huge queues of cars belonging to those fleeing the invasion are jamming roads, and evacuation trains are overcrowded with standing room only and not enough space for all those who want to evacuate.

The huge flows of refugees towards the border have been driven by what appears to be the deliberate targeting of civilians by Russian forces across the country.

Britain defended its record on welcoming refugees after criticism it was not doing enough and was far behind its European neighbours in helping address the biggest humanitarian crisis since the second world war.

The British government has been condemned by charities, opposition politicians and France after its insistence that refugees first acquire a visa, which has meant some Ukrainians have been stuck in the French city of Calais, unable to enter Britain, and provoking a diplomatic spat.

Britain has announced visa schemes for those who have family in the country or a willing sponsor. Media reports at the weekend said Britain had only issued about 50 visas for Ukrainians so far.

“You’ve got to remember that two weeks ago this situation didn’t exist at all,” James Cleverly told BBC TV. “We’re looking to create something at a very, very large scale very, very quickly. Initially, of course, it will be slower than we would like. But that will pick up.”

The Europe minister said there would be significantly more than the 50 visas reported but could not say what the numbers would be. “This is the largest refugee crisis since the second world war,” he said. “This is a scale that I think very few of us are used to dealing with.”

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