New York, NY, February 15, 2023 — As President Biden embarks on his trip to Poland, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is urging the administration to maintain efforts to address the pressing needs of refugees in countries neighboring Ukraine and those who have sought refuge in the United States.
One year since the start of the war Ukraine, the needs of people driven from their homes remain urgent. President Biden’s visit to Poland creates a unique impetus to renew the US’ bipartisan commitments to humanitarian assistance inside Ukraine and across refugee hosting countries. Additionally, the administration’s trip comes at a critical juncture for refugees fleeing Ukraine in Poland and the United States, as both host nations have expiring provisions protecting Ukrainian refugees.
In Poland, amendments to Ukrainian refugee hosting laws and a changing economic landscape highlight the need for continued humanitarian support. People fleeing the war in Ukraine were received with an unprecedented welcome across Polish society, and 1.5 million refugees have now registered for temporary protection. However, while there are still high levels of support towards Ukrainian refugees in Poland, many Poles voice concerns about hosting refugees over the long term, linked to rising costs of living.But with forecasts predicting that inflation in Poland will increase by over 18% in the coming year, a housing shortage and increasing strain on public services, Ukrainian refugees, especially those from vulnerable groups, are now facing ever increasing challenges.
In the United States, the IRC continues to provide essential services to newly-arrived Ukrainian refugees and humanitarian parolees including: direct assistance, employment programs, family reunification, and connection to benefits and community resources. The IRC has pioneered new remote services, which have aided thousands of Ukrainians, including the Uniting for Ukraine Support Line and the digital SettleIn project. However, as the war in Ukraine is likely to continue well into 2023, many Ukrainians in the U.S. could soon face legal uncertainty when they are unable to return home and their humanitarian parole expires as soon as this March. The IRC calls on the Biden administration to ensure parole and work authorization extensions are provided to Ukrainians in the U.S. to avoid sending people back into harm’s way and so they may continue to sustain their livelihoods and support themselves and their families. Moreover, while humanitarian parole is beneficial for addressing urgent humanitarian needs, there is no substitute for strengthening the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), a more long-term and sustainable solution to respond to future crises and increasing global needs.
IRC Senior Vice President for Resettlement, Asylum and Integration, Hans Van de Weerd, said:
“The IRC applauds the bipartisan support and American spirit of welcome demonstrated through the Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) program. U4U has welcomed over 100,000 Ukrainians to the U.S. through a sponsor-based parole process and received over 200,000 supporter applications from Americans applying to host Ukrainians. These arrivals need urgent action to ensure that their status does not expire while the war continues.
“However, the Uniting for Ukraine program alone is no replacement for a robust and agile U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and a functioning asylum system that meets growing and diverse needs worldwide. The recent launch of the Welcome Corps shows the bold innovation that is possible to welcome people fleeing conflict and persecution. The same welcome shown to Ukrainians must be shown to other refugees and asylum-seekers on an equitable basis. The IRC urges the Biden Administration to continue reforming and resourcing these systems to respond to unprecedented global needs.”
Alan Moseley, IRC Country Director in Poland, said:
“Many of the refugee families the IRC is working with in Poland have been displaced more than once, dating to the start of the conflict in 2014. Some struggle with additional difficulties like sickness or disability. We are concerned that due to socioeconomic pressures some refugees may feel compelled to return to Ukraine before it is safe to do so. To meet their basic needs and make informed decisions about their future, refugees need to have their livelihoods and safe spaces to stay secured, but also get unhindered access to legal counseling and specialized assistance, including psychological support, reproductive health services, as well as tailored aid for people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.
“A truly joint response to the humanitarian needs triggered by the war in Ukraine requires sustained international solidarity. Twelve months on, Ukrainian refugees find themselves trapped in limbo, torn between the lives they left behind and the new realities. The U.S. has an opportunity to help mobilize international efforts to deliver assistance to all conflict-affected people in Poland and in other neighboring countries, and invest in longer term solutions, which need to be at the heart of recovery and reconstruction planning for the country. We hope President Biden will take this chance to do so.”
The IRC launched an emergency response to the war in Ukraine in February 2022, working directly and with local partners to reach those most in need. In Poland, together with local civil society organizations, we are providing cash assistance to the most vulnerable households, helping refugees access employment and education, improving access to legal assistance and providing a variety of targeted protection services for people with particular needs or those facing barriers to accessing services and support in Poland. To date, we have supported almost 90,000 refugees in Poland. The IRC is a leading resettlement agency in the United States, resettling thousands of refugees, including Ukrainians, every year.
For questions or interview requests please contact: US: James Sussman at [email protected], Hope Arcuri at [email protected], or Cinthya Hagemeier at [email protected]. Poland: Weronika Rzezutka at [email protected]