GENEVA – Seven months after the onset of the international armed conflict in Ukraine, refugees remain grateful for the warm reception that they have received across Europe and most plan to stay put for now.
The majority are highly educated and willing to work and contribute to their host countries, but they need sustained support to help ensure socio-economic inclusion, according to a survey released today by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
Based on 4,800 responses from Ukrainian refugees hosted in countries across Europe and beyond, between August and September, ‘Lives on Hold: Intentions and Perspectives of Refugees from Ukraine,’ provides insights into the challenges they are facing, as well as their intentions.
With the conflict in Ukraine still tearing millions of families apart, the majority of Ukrainian refugees (82 per cent) intend to return home to reunite with their families, but only 13 per cent plan to do so in the next three months, the survey found.
In host countries, many refugees mentioned positive factors, such as their links to family or friends, security and stability, the availability of medical services, access to education, and the overall economic situation.
Some 70 per cent of refugees possess higher education qualifications, and two-thirds were previously working in Ukraine. Refugees are eager to reenter the labour market, which would lessen their reliance on welfare, but currently, less than one-third are employed or self-employed.
Refugees are seeking to play a more active role in their host countries, but they need additional support to do so. New needs have emerged as displacement has continued. Many mention that they need classes in local languages, support to ensure their skills are formally recognized, and importantly, help with childcare services which would enable them to work outside the home.
Three-quarters of those surveyed reported that they intended to send their children to school in their host country, while 18 per cent preferred remote learning using the Ukrainian curriculum.
Without work, many are struggling to make ends meet and find adequate housing. Nearly half (41 per cent) are staying with hosts, 20 per cent are living in collective sites or hotels, while a quarter is renting. Many are deeply concerned about finding alternative sustainable solutions ahead of winter.
Other pressing needs remain psychological support and specialized help for children with disabilities and older people. Some 87 per cent of refugees are women and children, and almost a third of respondents reported a family member with at least one disability.
Large parts of Ukraine remain devastated, with towns and livelihoods destroyed in many areas. The onset of winter and spiralling energy prices – or the lack of power — make return home at the moment difficult for many of the displaced.
Almost seven million people are displaced in the country, and UNHCR is conducting repairs and insulation on homes for vulnerable families preparing for winter. More than 815,000 have received food and non-food items, including winter clothes, while more than 31,000 have received emergency shelter materials. UNHCR aims to distribute emergency shelter kits for over 1 million people by year-end.
With more than 7.4 million refugees from Ukraine across Europe, UNHCR is urging continued support for generous host countries to ensure refugees have access to adequate assistance, as well as socio-economic inclusion.
The qualitative and quantitative survey is the second by UNHCR on the profiles and intentions of refugees from Ukraine across Europe and covers refugees in a wider range of countries than the first.
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