More than 1.5 million flee Ukraine in Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since Second World War

UN refugee agency chief says a million people fled the country in the first seven days of Russia’s invasion

Vladimir Putin poses 'danger to whole of humanity', says former Ukraine president

Over 1.5 million people have fled Ukraine for neighbouring countries in what has been described by the head of the UN refugee agency as the fastest-growing refugee crisis Europe has faced since the Second World War.

“More than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed into neighbouring countries in 10 days – the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II,” Filippo Grandi, the head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a tweet on Sunday.

A precise update on the figures has not been given yet, according to the Associated Press.

Mr Grandi is currently visiting countries that have borders with Ukraine.

The agency earlier said that a million people had fled Ukraine in the first seven days of Russia’s invasion, which began when the Russian president Vladimir Putin announced what he called a “special military operation” on 24 February.

“In just seven days we have witnessed the exodus of one million refugees from Ukraine to neighbouring countries,” Mr Grandi said on Twitter.

The UNHCR reported that numbers had crossed the million mark at midnight on 2 March, according to the agency’s spokesperson Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams.

At the time, the UNHCR said the exodus was responsible for more than 2 per cent of Ukraine’s population being on the move in under a week.

Refugees from Ukraine rest at a temporary shelter in Krakow’s main railway station on 6 March, as they wait to be relocated to other temporary accommodation in Poland or abroad

News of the jump in the number of refugees came as a second attempt at evacuating citizens from the two Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha was due to begin at midday local time.

A number of Ukraine’s neighbours have been welcoming the growing number of people fleeing from the country.

Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Moldova and Hungary have each accepted a large number of people. Poland has taken in more than 650,000, the lion’s share of refugees fleeing Ukraine, while Moldova has taken in more than 96,000 people.

The UK has been accused by France of “lacking humanity” in dealing with a cohort of refugees who thronged the French port city of Calais. At least 150 Ukrainians looking to be reunited with their families in the UK were turned away and asked to obtain visas at UK consulates in Paris or Brussels, in what French interior minister Gerald Darmanin called a “completely unsuitable” response to refugees “in distress”.

A map showing the extent of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered.

To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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