New York, NY, 4 March 2022 — As the number of refugees from Ukraine seeking safety in neighboring countries reaches an alarming 1 million, the IRC is calling out continued breaches of International Humanitarian Law and discriminatory treatment of individuals displaced by the conflict.
As Russia’s military offensive intensifies in major Ukrainian cities, the IRC is calling out the completely unacceptable, deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, as residential buildings and hospitals are hit and thousands of people are left without adequate water, electricity and access to markets where roads and bridges have been destroyed. The IRC strongly supports and echoes the UN Secretary General’s call on Russia to adhere to International Humanitarian Law, especially the protection of civilians and vulnerable groups such as women and girls.
The IRC also is extremely concerned about reports of discriminatory treatment of individuals of all backgrounds attempting to flee from Ukraine. All people seeking safety from the crisis must be granted safe and regular pathways to safety, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or religion.
David Miliband, President and CEO at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said, “In the cities and streets of Ukraine today, innocent civilians are bearing witness to our Age of Impunity. The fact that 1 million refugees have already been forced to flee is a grim testament to barbaric military tactics taking aim at homes and hospitals. The IRC is calling on the Russian government to immediately cease all violations of the laws of war to spare additional harm to civilians and avoid further displacement.
“Reports of pushbacks of individuals of African and Asian origin at the Ukrainian border must also be condemned in the strongest terms. Discrimination and unfair treatment of refugees is always intolerable, but it is especially so when conflict is intensifying in urban areas and violations of international humanitarian law are mounting by the hour. Seeking asylum is a human right, and it is our moral imperative to give refuge to those fleeing for their lives no matter their race, religion, color or creed.
“As war rages across Ukraine and the world bears witness to a displacement crisis at a scale rarely seen in history, it is urgent that Europe not just offer protection to Ukrainian nationals who have visa-free access to the EU, but to also grant non discriminatory pathways to safety to people of all citizenship and nationalities facing grave dangers inside Ukraine.”
In Poland, which is preparing to receive up to 1 million refugees, the IRC is working to scale up support to the government and civil society and to provide for the basic needs of people fleeing the conflict. The IRC is working with partners in Poland and Ukraine that are quickly mobilizing resources to provide critical support to civilians forced to flee their homes.