How the economic situation may affect the refugee crisis

The food crisis will lead to an increase in refugees worldwide. On the other hand, the economic outlook may be crucial for the reception of Ukrainian refugees and their stay in European countries
PHOTO/REUTERS - Voluntarios ofrecen ayuda a los refugiados tras la llegada de un tren procedente de Polonia a la estación central de trenes de Berlín, tras la invasión rusa de Ucrania, en Berlín, Alemania, 28 de febrero de 2022

PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Economic crisis in Europe caused by Russian invasion may affect Ukrainian refugees

Most countries in the world are already feeling the repercussions of the Russian invasion of Ukraine to a greater or lesser extent. Rising energy prices, shortages of foodstuffs such as sunflower oil and cereals and a lack of fertilisers are some of the causes of a war that is now entering its 96th day. Analysts and world leaders are warning of a serious food crisis as the conflict escalates and hopes for a peace settlement dwindle.

Problems in the food supply chain will also affect the current refugee crisis. In addition to the more than 6.5 million Ukrainians who have fled the war, according to UNHCR figures, the food crisis is also expected to force the displacement of thousands of people worldwide.

AFP/WOJETK RADWANSKI - En total, más de medio millón de personas han huido de Ucrania desde Moscú lanzó una invasión a gran escala el 24 de febrero, con más de la mitad huyendo hacia la vecina Polonia, miembro de la UE y de la OTAN, dijo la ONU el 28 de febrero de 2022
AFP/WOJETK RADWANSKI - In total, more than 6.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched a full-scale invasion on 24 February.

Rising prices as well as food shortages may provoke social unrest leading to mass protests and political instability, as many analysts fear will happen especially in the MENA region (North Africa and the Middle East), where the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine are already being felt.

"The global refugee crisis, both in terms of numbers and intensity, has not yet reached its peak," warns Bloomberg journalist Andreas Kluth, quoted by Al-Arab. Because of the current great uncertainty, anyone could at some point be forced to leave their country to flee violence or famine, the main challenge facing the world due to the war in Ukraine. For this reason, Kluth points out that refugees must be treated correctly and equally. In this sense, the reporter highlights and condemns the differences within the asylum policies of European countries depending on the origin of the refugees. 

AFP/WOJTEK RADWANSKI  -   Miembros de una familia kurda de Dohuk, en Irak, en un bosque cerca de la frontera entre Polonia y Bielorrusia mientras esperan a la patrulla de la guardia fronteriza, cerca de Narewka, Polonia, el 9 de noviembre de 2021
AFP/WOJTEK RADWANSKI - Members of a Kurdish family, in a forest near the border between Poland and Belarus as they wait for the border guard patrol, near Narewka, Poland, November 9, 2021

Poland is one of the countries where this inequality is most evident. While during the severe crisis of 2015 the country chose to close its borders to refugees coming mainly from Syria and other countries in the region, Warsaw welcomed with open arms Ukrainian citizens who left the country after 24 February.

AP/LEONID SHCHEGLOV/BELTA via AP - La crisis migratoria en las fronteras orientales de Polonia, Lituania y Letonia está alimentando los llamamientos para que la UE financie la construcción de algo que nunca quiso construir: vallas y muros en la frontera.
AP/LEONID SHCHEGLOV/BELTA via AP - The migration crisis on the eastern borders of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia is fuelling calls for the EU to fund the construction of something it never wanted to build: fences and border walls.
The worrying link between xenophobia and economic crises 

Kluth believes that this xenophobia sometimes reflects racist attitudes and cruelty, but more often than not it is just a feeling of "anxiety" or uncertainty. For example, in Germany - a country where the contrasts between East and West are still felt more than 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall - clashes with foreigners in 2015 were most severe in the East, a region with a worse socio-economic situation compared to the rest of the country. Many of these citizens thought that with the massive influx of refugees their situation would worsen and the authorities would put their concerns on the background.

AFP/DANIEL MIHAILESCU - Personas procedentes de Ucrania descienden de un ferry para entrar en Rumanía tras cruzar el río Danubio en el paso fronterizo de Isaccea-Orlivka entre Rumanía y Ucrania el 26 de febrero de 2022
AFP/DANIEL MIHAILESCU - People from Ukraine get off a ferry to enter Romania after crossing the Danube River at the Isaccea-Orlivka border crossing between Romania and Ukraine on 26 February 2022.

This scenario is repeated with every refugee crisis and is accentuated with economic crises, as some may see foreigners as a threat to their interests. This is currently happening in countries such as Turkey, where animosity towards Syrian refugees increases as the national economy worsens.

AFP/ BULENT KILIC -  Los migrantes esperan en la zona de amortiguación de la frontera entre Turquía y Grecia, cerca del paso fronterizo de Pazarkule en Edirne, el 5 de marzo de 2020
AFP/ BULENT KILIC - Animosity towards Syrian refugees in Turkey increases as national economy worsens

The Eurasian nation is home to 3.7 million refugees, a number that has increased since the start of the Syrian civil war. Against a backdrop of high inflation and a declining value of the Turkish lira, the rejection of the refugee population is increasingly latent. According to figures from the Foundation for Social Democracy in Turkey (SODEV) reported by Atalayar, 66% of Turks interviewed believe that Syrian refugees should return to their country. Other worrying findings include that more than 70% consider refugees 'not clean, trustworthy or educated', while 65% would not marry a Syrian and would not allow their children to marry a Syrian.

How long will European solidarity last?

This scenario could also play out in European countries if the economic situation continues to worsen due to the war in Ukraine, so many are wondering how long the exemplary solidarity that Europe has shown to the Ukrainians will last.

AP/MARKUS SCHREIBER - Refugiados de Ucrania cruzan a Polonia en el cruce de Medyka, el martes 1 de marzo de 2022
AP/MARKUS SCHREIBER - Refugees from Ukraine cross into Poland at the Medyka crossing on Tuesday 1 March 2022.

In some countries, a backlash against refugees is already being felt. In eastern Slovakia, which has received 80,000 Ukrainians, some people say they feel "an aversion" towards them, accusing some of "abusing people's goodwill, doing shady business with humanitarian goods and being arrogant and demanding", as citizens told Euronews' Julian Gomez. "We definitely have to keep helping, but not everyone deserves the help we are offering them," a woman from a town near the Ukrainian border told the reporter.

Slovakia is one of the European countries that has already asked Brussels for more help and "flexibility" in dealing with the refugee crisis. Other nations such as Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania have also asked the European Commission to submit proposals to provide additional funding, according to Europa Press. Meanwhile, Prague has also extended the state of emergency due to the arrival of refugees, while Budapest has declared a state of emergency due to the war in Ukraine.

AP/ZSOLT SZIGETVARY  -   El primer ministro húngaro, Viktor Orbán, pronuncia su discurso anual sobre el Estado de la nación, 17 de febrero de 2022
AP/ZSOLT SZIGETVARY - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivers his annual State of the Nation address, 17 February 2022.

The European economic landscape may be crucial in the reception of Ukrainian refugees and their stay in the countries of the continent. In fact, economic interests, especially those related to energy and trade, are the main factors why some countries have chosen not to take a stand against Russia in the war, such as Hungary, which imports 85% of Russian gas and 60% of Russian oil. For this reason, and with respect to the EU embargo on Russian oil, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó stressed that "no one can expect Hungarians to pay the price for the war in Ukraine".

Germany, too, due to its strong energy dependence on Moscow, has taken certain decisions in order not to anger the Kremlin, such as not supplying arms to Ukraine. According to the German newspaper Die Welt, despite Berlin's commitment to provide military assistance to Kiev, it has only sent two packages in the past two months, one with spare parts for machine guns and the other with anti-tank mines.

PHOTO/ARCHIVO  -   El canciller alemán, Olaf Scholz
PHOTO/FILE - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
More than 84 million refugees worldwide 

In addition to the Ukrainian refugees and those that will be caused by the food crisis triggered by the Russian invasion, we must not forget the thousands of people who have fled violence and instability in countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Burkina Faso, Myanmar or the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In this sense, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, have called on the countries of the European Union, despite the Ukrainian refugee crisis, not to forget other displaced people. "The important message is that Ukraine is not alone. We must not forget the rest," Grandi said, according to Europa Press.

AFP/ ARIS MESSINIS - Los refugiados y migrantes desembarcan en la isla griega de Lesbos el 2 de marzo de 2020
AFP/ ARIS MESSINIS - Refugees and migrants disembark on the Greek island of Lesbos on 2 March 2020.

According to UNHCR, there are more than 84 million refugees in the world. Syria, Venezuela and Afghanistan top the list of countries from which most people have fled, followed by South Sudan and Myanmar. On the other hand, 39% of displaced people are concentrated in just five countries: Turkey (3.7 million), Colombia (1.7 million), Pakistan (1.4 million), Uganda (1.4 million) and Germany (1.2 million).