Europe's Forgotten Refugees

The Humanitarian Crisis in Ukraine

Refugees flee the eastern Ukrainian town of Debaltseve, February 2015. Gleb Garanich / Reuters

In recent years, international headlines have featured stories and images of the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East and its effects in western Europe. Few are aware, however, that the fourth-largest source of internal refugees in 2015 was within Europe itself.

Ukraine now keeps company with Iraq, Syria, and Yemen as one of the world’s leading producers of internal refugees. Figures vary, but by most estimates there are around 1.7 million internally displaced in Ukraine and another 1.4 million Ukrainians living as refugees in western Europe and Russia. Refugees first trickled out of Crimea after its annexation by Russia in early 2014, but their numbers surged after civil war broke out, following the Russian-backed proclamation of the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in eastern Ukraine. The two internationally brokered cease-fire agreements—Minsk and Minsk II—have since failed to produce an enduring peace.

Two of this article’s co-authors have

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