New York, NY, February 22, 2022 — In the wake of the latest UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) urges immediate deescalation involved to avoid a humanitarian emergency.
Ukraine is undergoing its eighth year of conflict with Russia; any significant escalation in fighting would result in soaring humanitarian needs and could lead to one of the largest displacement crises in recent years. Previous rounds of fighting in Ukraine have devastated civil infrastructure, disrupted essential public services, driven food shortages, and led to grave human suffering and displacement. There are almost 3 million people in need of humanitarian aid inside the country, many of whom live in eastern Ukraine where outbreaks of violence are already being reported. It is vital that diplomatic efforts avert conflict and the suffering it will produce.
Meanwhile, EU Member States must support Ukraine as well as neighbouring countries to scale up their capacity to support displaced people. Neighbouring countries need to be prepared to deliver adequate reception conditions and ensure full access to asylum procedures. In the longer term, EU member states must finally agree on a system of responsibility-sharing for asylum seekers so they can respond to displacement situations or humanitarian emergencies humanely and effectively.
The IRC is on the ground in neighbouring Poland — home to a large Ukrainian population — assessing the situation and the humanitarian needs that could arise if people start to flee into the country. We will be ready to support the needs of affected populations if needed.
Lani Fortier, Senior Director of Delivery on Emergencies, International Rescue Committee, said,
“Humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine must be avoided at all costs. If war breaks out, the consequences for the Ukrainian people - and for Europe - cannot be overstated.
“Should conflict escalate further, thousands are at risk of being displaced internally and into neighboring countries. IRC is extremely concerned about a potential displacement crisis with far reaching consequences for the EU.
"The last thing the world needs is a conflagration of this conflict and an ensuing humanitarian crisis. The number one priority for the West should be to use every diplomatic tool at its disposal to de-escalate and arrive at a political solution. The EU must support Ukraine, Poland and other neighbouring countries by scaling up capacity for the reception of displaced people.
"A crisis at Europe’s borders only makes the longstanding call for sustainable, humane and responsible policies for managing migration and asylum at EU level that much more urgent. A joint European effort is vital in this regard - both to avoid repeating past mistakes and to spare human suffering in the present.”
The IRC has been responding to humanitarian crises in Europe since 2015, where we launched an emergency response to the peak in migration in Greece and relaunched operations in Serbia. Our teams provided water, health and sanitation, and psychosocial support to refugees and migrants. Since then, the IRC has also provided support to refugees and migrants in Germany from 2016, Italy from 2017, and Bosnia-Herzegovina from 2020. Last year, the IRC also started to provide integration support to refugees and their local communities in the UK.
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.