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Warsaw and Krakow warn of saturation as Ukrainian refugees flock to Poland

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Warsaw, Poland – Poland’s two largest cities warned that they might no longer be able to absorb the massive influx of Ukrainian refugees seeking safety from the war.

At least 1.5 million people have crossed from Ukraine to Poland since the beginning of the Russian invasion. Only a minority of them have continued their journey to other countries, with most staying in the country.

An additional 1 million other refugees – with their numbers growing by the day – have fled to other Central and Eastern European states, including Romania, Moldova, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

Described as “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II” by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the arrivals – mostly of elderly, women and children – has sparked an unprecedented wave of solidarity in neighbouring countries and beyond, with local populations coming together to offer transport, food, basic necessities, accommodation or other forms of support.

While Poland’s rapid efforts and mobilisation in providing humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees has been praised across Europe, some cities are now showing signs of strain.

Earlier this week, Warsaw mayor Rafał Trzaskowski warned that “the situation is getting more and more difficult every day” as the city struggles to absorb and care for at least 300,000 refugees (about 15% of Warsaw’s population) who have arrived so far.

Poland’s second largest city of Krakow is facing similar challenges.

“In the last several days, we have already received approximately 100,000 war refugees,” mayor Jacek Majchrowski said on Facebook on Friday.

“Krakow is losing its ability to accommodate further waves,” he added, saying that additional arrivals could hinder “the functioning of the city”.

Both mayors have asked for support from the central Polish government, the EU and the UN to help them manage the situation and ensure the crisis doesn’t spiral out of control.

Across Poland, aids organisations and local NGOs have also issued a dire warning that more should be done to accommodate refugees and that without proper support from political authorities, frontline workers and local volunteers will soon be overwhelmed.

“We’ve had a heartfelt response, but we’ll soon have an enormous problem”, migration scholar Maciej Duszczyk told local media.

“Responsibility must be taken off the people who chose to accept refugees. We should say ‘Thank you that you have accepted this family, now we are taking care of them’. The state must regain control of this.”