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9 Nov, 2022 16:03

EU braces for new refugee crisis – Reuters

Local officials are stocking up supplies for people fleeing energy-strapped Ukraine
EU braces for new refugee crisis – Reuters

Eastern European countries are girding for a new influx of Ukrainian refugees this winter, with Slovakia anticipating that hundreds of thousands people may arrive in the country in the coming months due to low temperatures and hostilities in Ukraine, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing local officials.

A Slovak government contingency plan envisages that about 700,000 refugees may pour into the country this winter, the report says.

“A large number of (Ukraine's) internally displaced people are currently temporarily housed in conditions that are not suitable for the winter,” the document reads, according to Reuters, adding that the “further escalation of the conflict is also a risk.”

Moreover, European nations are said to be opening reception centers and stocking up products to get ready for a new refugee crisis.

In Hungary, Zsofia Dobis-Lucski, a spokesperson for the charity organization Hungarian Reformed Church Aid, told Reuters that about 300–500 people have been arriving daily at the border train station in the town of Zahony in recent weeks.

However, Witold Wolczyk, an official from Przemysl in eastern Poland, has so far noticed little commotion. At the same time, he told the outlet that local authorities have to prepare for a potentially difficult winter, as well as for a new wave of refugees. “We are constantly stocking up on hygiene products and food,” Wolczyk added.

According to UN data, about 4.5 million refugees are currently registered within various national protection schemes in Europe, with about seven million people internally displaced in Ukraine itself.

Europe is bracing for a new refugee crisis amid Russian strikes on Ukraine’s power plants that have knocked out up to 40% of the country’s energy infrastructure, according to Kiev. The bombardment came after Moscow accused Kiev of conducting “terrorist attacks” on Russian infrastructure, including the strategic Crimean Bridge.

Against this backdrop, in late October Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk urged her fellow citizens who had fled the country not to return home before spring to ease pressure on the power grid.