The Growing Problem of Integrating Refugees
Over the past five months, Ukrainian refugees have poured into countries around Europe to generally warm welcomes. Many pointed out that at the peak of the Syrian refugee crisis back in 2015, European countries were not nearly as hospitable. However, many countries across Europe beleived that Ukrainian refugees would eventually return to their home country. As the war continues, and the millions of Ukrainian women and children throughout Europe try to develop some form of normalcy, several humanitarian organizations like World Vision are worried that tensions are going to rise in host countries. Helping Ukrainian refugees by providing adequate housing, food supplies, and job opportunities is likely to become a point of contention in countries with existing economic issues, such as Romania and Moldova. While the tensions are just surfacing, international organizations and Western governments need to be proactive in order to protect refugees from future mistreatment.
Most Ukranian refugees that cross into Moldova only do so temporarily and move onto Romania or other E.U. countries. However, 83,000 Ukrainians have stayed in Moldova because of its proximity to thier home country, using it as a place to figure out their short-to-medium term plans. They are deciding if they want to go back to Ukraine, stay in Moldova, or move onto a different country. As a result, many children have not enrolled into Moldovan schools for the Autumn semester and may be without former schooling. Moldova is also the poorest country in Europe and has provided little governmental support to the refugees. Humanitarian watchdogs are concerned that the generosity of ordinary Moldovans, many of whom are already struggling, is going to run out and lead to strife.
Romania has the highest poverty rate in the E.U. but has accepted over 80,000 refugees. From the outset of Russia’s invasion, activists with sympathies for Russia questioned the support for Ukrainian refugees. Furthermore, social media posts argued that the war was fake and that refugees were not actually receiving donated money or supplies; instead organizations were just pocketing the money. Initially, these groups were in the minority, but as inflation has risen and people have become desensitized to the war, the general population has become less sympathetic. As autumn approaches, tensions over access to housing, schooling, and medical services are likely to increase.
What is Next
Russia’s war in Ukraine has created a massive refugee problem and put a strain on the global economy, but economically disadvantaged countries in Europe are struggling to cope. Ukrainian women and children need access to proper medical services, food supplies, housing, and schooling. Countries such as Moldova and Romania are not well equipped to handle these additional pressures on their social services. While intially welcoming, Romanians and Moldovans are beginning to question aid that is given to refugees when their own people are continuing to struggle. Tensions are starting to form and need to be proactively addressed by the U.N. and E.U. to protect the vulnerable women and children.