War in Ukraine: Central Europe welcomes its first refugees

Preparations at the reception center for refugees from Ukraine established in Dorohusk, eastern Poland, on February 24, 2022. AFP - JANEK SKARZYNSKI

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The neighboring countries of Ukraine and its 44 million inhabitants are preparing for an influx of refugees after the attack launched Thursday, February 24 by Russia.

According to the UN, 100,000 Ukrainians have been displaced within their country and several thousand others have already fled abroad.

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“ 

We believe that around 100,000 people must have already left their homes and could be displaced within the country, and that several thousand people have crossed international borders 

,” a spokeswoman for the High Office said on Thursday. -UN Commissioner for Refugees, calling on countries neighboring Ukraine to keep their borders open and saying they are ready to "

 support 

" these efforts.

The European Union says it is fully “

prepared 

” to welcome refugees.

Contingency plans, assures the chief executive Ursula von der Leyen, have been planned “ 

with all the member states which are on the front line 

”.

Four EU countries bordering Ukraine, located on the eastern flank of the European Union, began this Thursday to welcome Ukrainian refugees. 

First nine "welcome centres" in Poland

First Poland, the most accessible European country from Kiev and where the largest Ukrainian community in the region lives.

The two countries share more than 530 km of border, along which, according to Warsaw, nine first "reception centers" will open.

Dozens of people arrived at the usually quiet Medyka crossing, some carrying luggage and accompanied by children.

The Polish authorities ensure that the refugees will be able to receive information, meals, medical aid and rest there.

Several days ago, Poland said it was ready to welcome children to its schools and students to its universities. 

Further south, Slovakia says it has four refugee camps.

Slovakian customs authorities said private cars had to wait up to eight hours before they could cross the busiest of the three road crossing points between Slovakia and Ukraine.

Romania, which also shares a long border with Ukraine, claims to be able to open its doors to half a million people, thanks in particular to reception centers in major cities.

The border police noted an increase in the number of arrivals, identifying some 5,300 people, against 2,400 the day before.

Several hundred, including women accompanied by children, crossed the border post of Sighetul Marmatiei (north), according to images broadcast by television.

Romania, one of the poorest countries in the European Union, "

 is completely unprepared

 ," said Flavius ​​Ilioni-Loga, head of an NGO helping refugees.

Safe Corridor in Hungary

As for Hungary, known for its very harsh anti-immigration positions, it also says it is ready to let asylum seekers pass.

Budapest announces that it has sent troops to its border with Ukraine to create a secure corridor.

On Thursday, Hungarian police reported long queues of vehicles waiting to enter the country at five crossing points along the 140 km border with Ukraine.

 At least 400 or 500 people 

” also crossed on foot, according to the MTI news agency.

If the crowd was not massive this Thursday, the figure of 600,000 is mentioned, according to a map deployed during a meeting the day before by the Hungarian authorities.

The Czech Republic, which has no border with Ukraine but is home to 260,000 Ukrainians, has also said it is ready to help refugees.

Czech Railways offered 6,000-seat carriages and beds to help evacuate people if needed.

Balkan countries are preparing hotels and other tourist bases to accommodate them, said Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, whose country has no land border with Ukraine but borders the Black Sea, while like Ukraine and Russia.

To read also: [Minute by minute] The day Russia attacked Ukraine

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