Displaced refugees within Ukraine trying to return home

Some refugees who have been displaced by the war within Ukraine are trying to return to their homes, even in areas where heavy fighting is continuing, as they cannot afford to live elsewhere, the United Nations refugee arm has said.

LVIV, UKRAINE - MAY 07: Refugees from the war-torn regions of Ukraine say goodbye to loved ones before boarding a coach to Warsaw at a coach station in Lviv, Ukraine. Lviv has served as a stopover and shelter for the millions of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.
LVIV, UKRAINE - MAY 07: Refugees from the war-torn regions of Ukraine say goodbye to loved ones before boarding a coach to Warsaw at a coach station in Lviv, Ukraine. Lviv has served as a stopover and shelter for the millions of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.

Karolina Lindholm Billing, UNHCR’s representative to Ukraine, said that those who had opted to stay in Ukraine rather than escape to other countries, but had had to leave their homes, wanted to return. Many are living in temporary accommodation and are finding it difficult to secure more long term places to live, such as rented apartments, in other parts of Ukraine.

UNCHR has assisted 1.2 million people in Ukraine in the first 100 days of the war, including 233,000 with protection counselling and services; 500,000 with essential items such as mattresses, blankets and solar lamps in areas with no electricity; and 73,400 who have received vital assistance through humanitarian convoys delivered to hard-hit areas.

Ms Lindholm Billing said: “Several people I spoke with told of people returning to their homes, even in areas in Luhansk oblast, as they simply cannot afford the expense of displacement.

"People are still fleeing fighting, others remain in the places they fled to in the last 100 days; some are already returning to rebuild their homes. I also met some people who had returned, then decided it was unsafe and had to flee again.”

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She added: “In Dnipro, I saw buses arriving with people who had evacuated from locations like Bakhmut. They were visibly weak and shaken. Most arrivals were elderly, had difficulty walking alone and needed help. These are people with next to nothing.

For some, this is the second time they have fled for their lives since 2014. They need immediate, emergency humanitarian support: somewhere to sleep, clothes, hygiene items, food, cash assistance and - importantly - psychological first aid and counselling."

She said that many people staying in one of the 182 reception centres set up by UNHCR knew they would not be able to stay long term, but had nowhere else to go.

She said: “Tonight, they have somewhere warm to sleep, but they don’t know about tomorrow or the months to come.”