“I’m also here to talk about how we can support Slovakia and other countries on the front line that help Ukraine,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly Clements, who came to Slovakia last week, told Pravda. things before the war began. But we did not expect such a large number of people to move so quickly, “the diplomat admitted.
Ukrainian refugees at the Polish border crossing Medyka.
Why did you visit Slovakia?
It is a short but intensive regional mission. I was in the Czech Republic, in Hungary and I also came to Slovakia. I met with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, representatives of civil society and visited the reception center for refugees. I would like to appreciate what Slovakia did when large numbers of Ukrainians began to arrive quickly, as the government, local communities and volunteers mobilized in your country. Even before the European Union announced that, you had created a protection framework for refugees. In addition, I came to find out what more the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UHNCR) and the international community can do in Slovakia to support the government. It is the fastest growing refugee crisis in history, with more than five million people leaving Ukraine.
Probably no one expected this. So what did you see during the meetings in the region?
We planned things before the war started. But we did not expect such a large number of people to move so quickly. In addition to the more than five million Ukrainians who have gone abroad, we have seven million internally displaced persons. And 13 million war makes it impossible to move. About 90 percent of the refugees are women, children and the elderly. Many of them want to stay close to Ukraine, where they still have relatives and hope that the situation will allow them to return. You asked me what I saw. Incredible solidarity and huge support. I see that your country is taking very seriously what needs to be done in order to provide protection to refugees. I have been following a network of volunteers at the border that has been helping for two months, and that has been a long time. We do not know how the conflict will develop. But I am also here to talk about how we can support Slovakia and other countries on the front line that are helping Ukraine.
You mentioned how the government, local communities and civil society mobilized. But there was criticism that the authorities relied too much on volunteers, especially at the beginning. Is the system working well?
Slovakia has so far had no experience with such an influx of refugees. Because of this, the system works extremely well. We may ask ourselves if there is room for improvement. The answer will be that there is always room for improvement. We can all do things better, including UNHCR. But I also came to talk to the people involved, how we can help strengthen your efforts through further coordination of processes, through the involvement of the Ministry of Health, Education or Labor and Social Affairs. And we are already looking at the next phase, in which it will be necessary to address how refugees could contribute to the functioning of local communities. How to find work for them in industries that lack people and get their children to school. It would be good to do so so that their temporary stay with you would not be a burden for the country, but for Slovakia to benefit from it.
You have a lot of experience with refugees and migration issues. How long can the rise of solidarity with the Ukrainians we see last? How do you explain to people that what is happening is likely to be a long-term affair that does not end with cooking the refugees’ soup?
I hear that Slovakia wants to move quickly from the very initial crisis phase, when you hand out soup, blankets and clothes. When refugees are given the opportunity to work and their children are in school, they are no longer foreigners who depend on local support. They will become members of local communities, although perhaps only temporarily. We want to help Slovakia support the refugees in this. You can count on the European Union in the first place, but there are also international donors. UNHCR and other partners can contribute their resources. This crisis will probably not be short-lived. Therefore, the support provided must also be sustainable in the long run.
What specifically can UNHCR do for Slovakia?
Requirements concerning our expertise have been made. How to plan bigger than to coordinate things across the country, when in some more remote places human resources may be lacking. I have already mentioned that most refugees are women and children. They come from the war. Refugees are traumatized, unrelated to their relatives, vulnerable, and some have faced sexual violence. This is happening elsewhere in the world. We know how to help with this, we have experience with it. We have offered to send experts to Slovakia and we are ready to help with expertise in any area in which the government may need it.
How surprised were you that countries like Slovakia, Poland and Hungary clearly help Ukrainians? Especially if we recall that during the refugee crisis in 2015-2016, the countries of Eastern Europe were not among the most generous.
It is interesting. I think that this region has learned a lot from what happened between 2015 and 2016. The commitment of volunteers and civil society was not so visible at first at the time, but gradually increased. And now it all came practically from evening to morning. There were clear expectations that your region would have to show solidarity. It was also clear that he would have to provide refugees with international protection. As it should be for people fleeing war and facing persecution. No matter where they come from. You are to be commended for that. In addition, we think we have reached a point where the international community needs to address the global situation of refugees. We have almost 100 million of them in the world. I think this could lead to a debate that refugees need our compassion wherever they are.
So do you think that if the Syrians or Afghans came now, Eastern Europe would be more open to them?
I’m an optimist. I believe that would be the case.
Is Ukraine distracting from other crises? The Taliban took power in Kabul last August 15, and at least 300,000 people have left Afghanistan since then.
Before Ukraine, UNHCR had a budget of almost $ 10 billion so that we could help forcibly displaced people around the world. We can talk about crises in Syria, Ethiopia, South Sudan or Venezuela. Ukraine is now receiving extraordinary attention. We have many individual donors who want to help. But we also want to use it to discuss the global situation. It should work in such a way that we should not take the resources that go to support the Ukrainians from the aid that was intended for others. The war in Ukraine also affects them. Fuel prices are rising, food insecurity is rising, we are tackling inflation. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has recently been to Afghanistan and is now heading to Chad and Cameroon. There is always a risk when a lot of attention is focused on one crisis, but we also want to draw attention to other issues.
Source: Pravda – Správy by spravy.pravda.sk.
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