May 5, 2022
We are now entering the tenth week of the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The UNHCR reports that over 12 million Ukrainians (nearly 27% of the population) are either internally displaced (approx. 7 million), or are refugees (over 5 million). An estimated 13 million Ukrainians are trapped in areas under Russian military siege.
Additionally, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has received a consistent multitude of reports from Ukrainian officials, NGOs and other sources regarding the forcible deportations of Ukrainian civilians to Russia. The Human Rights Ombudsperson of the Ukrainian Parliament states that 500,000 people have been forcibly deported from Ukraine to Russia. Over 100,000 of the deported are children. Ukrainians are taken to “filtration camps”, interrogated and then shipped throughout Russia, including to Siberia, the North Caucasus, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Sakhalin in the Far East and the Arctic Circle. It is reported that children are taken away from their families and placed into Russian families for rapid adoption.
The massive scope of the Russian invasion, the severity of the devastation that has already been inflicted upon Ukraine, and the probability that a renewed Russian offensive will continue to see the employment of the same brutal tactics that we have already witnessed, including terror bombing, the indiscriminate killing of civilians, and the razing of entire cities to the ground means that the flow of refugees will likely continue, and that many people will not even have a home to return to in the foreseeable future.
Many European countries as well as Canada have accepted refugees from Ukraine and expedited visa processing. Refugees have found safe haven in neighboring countries: Poland leads the way, hosting more than 2.9 million refugees, but Romania (764,000), Hungary (476,000), Moldova (429,000), and other European countries have taken in millions more, providing much-needed comfort and shelter to displaced civilians while the Ukrainian military mounts its heroic defense.
The United States’ initial response was to provide Temporary Protected Status for 18 months to Ukrainians already in the country as of April 11th. President Biden subsequently announced that up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees would be allowed into the U.S., with an emphasis on people who already have family in the country. On April 21st, President Biden announced “Uniting for Ukraine”, a humanitarian parole program designed to enable Ukrainians seeking refuge to come directly from Europe to the United States. These are welcome developments, but they are not enough.
Substantial logistical and institutional barriers stand in the way of those who would find safety in the United States. The United States must do more to abate the growing refugee crisis caused by this vicious war. We are therefore asking for the following:
1. The United States has a responsibility to accept as many refugees as possible, including the estimated 5,000 citizens of other countries who fled Ukraine after the invasion. We call on the United States government to allow more refugees into the country: 100,000 is a good start, but we can—and must—do more.
2. Ukrainian refugees should be processed and admitted through humanitarian parole at airports as well as borders, and provided access to US Refugee Assistance Program (USRAP) as has been done with other refugees. After entering the US through parole, Ukrainian refugees must be allowed to access the USRAP for benefits afforded to refugees. Combined, this will allow Ukrainian refugees to come to the United States more easily, and provide them with long-term legal status and guaranteed access to benefits.
3. Refugees should be allowed to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and should be extended beyond those who were in the United States as of April 11th. TPS applications should be processed on an expedited basis, and the program itself should be extended indefinitely, beyond the 18 months currently announced.
A strong commitment to help displaced Ukrainian people and uphold the principles of human rights must be one of the United States’ highest priorities. We call upon the government to expeditiously implement these measures to help minimize the suffering that this war has inflicted upon vulnerable and innocent civilians.
Government Outreach Committee
Ukrainian-American Crisis Response Committee of Michigan