Polish border towns call for centralized system to re-house refugees

By Imane Rachidi

Korczowa-Krakovets (Poland/Ukraine), Mar 14 (EFE).- As Poland braces for more arrivals from Ukraine, authorities in the country’s eastern border areas are calling for a new, centralized system to distribute aid and rehouse refugees across Europe.

Wladyslaw Ortyl, president of the Podkarpackie region and member of the European Committee of the Regions, set out the proposals in an interview with Efe on Monday.

The Podkarpackie and Lublin regions in southeast Poland have become key locations offering refuge to Ukrainians, mainly women and children, fleeing the war at home.

Polish authorities have said some 1.74 million refugees have arrived in the country since February 24, when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.

When Ukrainian refugees reach the border with Poland they are given basic goods and medical assistance at the temporary centers that have been created. They are later transferred to other cities and towns in the country.

Refugees can use trains free of charge or make use of one of the many volunteers with vans that have arrived in Poland to help with the humanitarian crisis.

According to Ortyl, what is most pressing is a centralized system, so that refugees can be taken to a center where organizers can search for hosts and people offering transport services across the continent.

“We have to take into account the fact that these people could stay in the European Union longer than they plan. Perhaps months or years, because even if the war ends soon (…) they cannot return to a country and a home that has been destroyed,” Ortyl told Efe during a visit to the Korczowa-Krakovets border crossing between Poland and Ukraine.

“If the entire European Committee of the Regions creates the proposed base for accepting refugees, we will direct them there,” the politician said. “It will be a specific aid, and refugees will be able to consider whether they want to go to Germany, France, Italy or Spain.”

He added that the peak of the first wave of refugees tapered off over the weekend and that municipal authorities “managed without any issues” thanks to the assistance of thousands of Polish and international volunteers.

However, “the next wave of refugees could bring problems” if all those who arrive want to stay in the municipalities closest to the Ukrainian border with the hope of being able to return home as soon as possible.

“Our possibilities are not limitless, that’s why we need the help of other European countries. Managing other waves of refugees may be more difficult than this first one,” Ortyl said.

Over the weekend the number of Ukrainian refugees crossing the border was much smaller than in the first two weeks.

According to different official sources, a cold snap of subzero temperatures as well as Russian attacks on besieged cities meant fewer people risked the journey.

Despite a drop in numbers, trains from Kyiv and Lviv packed with older people, women, children and pets continued to pour into Poland.

Polish authorities expect a new wave of refugees this week, following an aerial attack on Sunday of a military base in Ukraine, just 20 kilometers from Poland, a NATO member state.

Stanisław Kłopot, the mayor of Jarosław, also in the southeast, warned that Poland does not have refugee camps like the ones found in Greece or Turkey.

“People from Europe and Poland have to help. We are not saying that we want to get rid of the refugees, but we have to do what we can to offer them shelter,” Kłopot added.

During the first wave of arrivals, up to 15,000 people crossed the Korczowa Pass each day, as well as 16,000 daily vehicles and 1,000 buses.

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