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Russian attacks force fresh wave of Ukrainian refugees on Europe

James Crisp,
Publish Date
Sun, 30 Oct 2022, 4:42pm

Russian attacks force fresh wave of Ukrainian refugees on Europe

James Crisp,
Publish Date
Sun, 30 Oct 2022, 4:42pm

Europe is experiencing a fresh wave of Ukrainian refugees, who are being forced from their homes because Russian attacks on power stations have left them without heat and electricity.

And Hungary is feeling the pinch. Since Vladimir Putin’s invasion, 963,812 refugees have entered Hungary from the border with Ukraine and Romania. At the peak, more than 25,000 Ukrainians, mostly women and children, arrived in one day.

Arrivals dwindled in mid-March but are creeping up again while Hungary makes preparations to handle tens of thousands of new refugees.

“We are prepared to go again,” said Alexandra Szentkirályi, the government’s spokeswoman at the humanitarian transit point in a sports centre in Budapest.

The day before The Daily Telegraph visited, 70 Ukrainians arrived at the centre, one of seven help points and the only one not close to the border.

”They said they had come to Hungary because of the loss of electricity and because they are cold and don’t have heating. We are expecting the numbers to get higher in winter,” Szentkirályi said.

Exact numbers of refugees staying in Hungary are unclear as Ukrainians have a visa-free travel agreement with the European Union (EU) but 27,993 asylum applications have been approved so far out of 31,313 claims since the war began.

Elsewhere in Europe, the system is close to breaking point. More than a million Ukrainians have arrived in Germany, where municipalities have warned they cannot take in any more people.

Tents and temporary shelters have been set up because migrant centres are full. Police suspect that blazes at two hotels housing Ukrainian refugees in Rostock, in northeastern Germany, and Bautzen, east of Dresden, were politically-motivated arson attacks.

A man passes by fragments of a Russian rocket in central Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battle against the Russian troops in the Donetsk region, Ukraine. Photo / APA man passes by fragments of a Russian rocket in central Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battle against the Russian troops in the Donetsk region, Ukraine. Photo / AP

Poland is on the frontline of the crisis, with more than 1.4 million Ukrainians officially registered in the country, and expects a fresh wave of refugees in winter.

There is a huge support for Ukraine in the country but the cost of living crisis is taking its toll on the economy.

From the middle of next month, Ukrainians living in shared accommodation and who have a job will have to pay half of their accommodation costs.

The Irish government has announced it will cost €2.5 billion (about $4.28b) to care for 100,000 Ukrainian refugees next year and suggested it could take in up to 200,000 Ukrainian refugees.

But Dublin is struggling to find accommodation for the Ukrainians, with army-style camp beds being deployed in sports centres. Ministers have not ruled out the prospect of some refugees having to sleep rough.

The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Santry, Dublin, has told more than 400 asylum seekers from Ukraine they would have to leave, after a six-month government contract to provide accommodation was not renewed.

Contracts for a further 364 hotels are set to expire between now and Christmas.

Hungary has so far spent €68 million ($116m) and a further €21.1m ($36m) in EU funds on its humanitarian programme, despite its hardline stance on immigration and simmering tensions with Kyiv.

Viktor Orbán, the prime minister, also angered Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky after criticising EU sanctions against Moscow and calling for peace talks without preconditions.

The Budapest centre is open 24 hours a day and Hungarians have inundated the centre with donations of toys and clothes. But the warm welcome is not extended to refugees arriving at the country’s southern border with Serbia, where the nationalist Orbán says there is a “migrant invasion”.

Every day, about 200 Hungarian prisoners are sent to the 175km fence, built by Hungary, to repair damage caused by breakthrough attempts.

The four-metre-high wall, with electric fences and razor wire, is controversial but the government said on Friday it would reinforce the barrier, deploying an additional 60 inmates each day for upkeep.

In the border town of Röszke, Levente Bauko, a police colonel, said illegal migrants attempted to get through the fence every day. They would attempt simultaneous crossings co-ordinated by people traffickers in different places to increase their chances of getting through.

This year, Hungary has arrested and sent back 229,000 migrants, compared to 122,000 in 2021, from countries such as Afghanistan and Syria.

The EU continues to refuse Hungarian demands for cash from Brussels for the £1.25b ($2.5b) fence, which, until a European Court of Justice case, also had “transit zones” where asylum seekers were forced to live until their claim was processed.

Orbán regularly butted heads with Brussels during the migrant crisis in 2015 and refused to implement EU-mandated migrant relocation quotas.

Hungary has now changed the law so asylum claims should be made at Hungarian embassies rather than at the country’s borders.

Balázs Orbán is the prime minister’s political director and one of the key thinkers in the ruling Fidesz party. Orbán, who is not related to the prime minister, is a fan of Britain’s plans to deport Channel migrants to Rwanda and hopes to build a coalition of anti-migrant EU governments, including Austria and Italy, to push for a network of offshore migrant processing centres.

”We try to figure out the same. That’s the only way you can manage it. I think it’s very smart but it costs a lot of money,” he said.

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