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On Wednesday, Warsaw’s Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski participated in a meeting hosted by the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the Committee on Budgetary Control. He spoke about the situation of Ukrainian war refugees residing in Poland, particularly in the capital.
There are currently about one million Ukrainian refugees in Poland, and a total of 8 million people have crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border since February. - This border is like a revolving door. People are going in and out, depending on the war situation- Trzaskowski told the MEPs.
He said that in the first weeks of the war, Warsaw took in 350,000 refugees. Overnight, the capital’s population increased by a fifth. Some Ukrainians went further west, while others returned to Ukraine. Today, there are about 150,000 refugees registered in Warsaw alone, and 230,000 in the entire metropolitan area. The city’s population is now 10% greater than before the Russian aggression on Ukraine. The capital's schools and kindergartens host nearly 18,000 Ukrainian children and teens. A majority of them, 14,500, ended up in public institutions. Over the past nine months, 300 Ukrainian babies have also been born in Warsaw hospitals.
- The first months were completely improvised. Today, Warsaw, as well as the rest of Poland and other neighboring countries hosting refugees, have already reached their maximum capacity. We need financial support from the European Union, especially since we cannot rule out another major wave of immigration given the coming winter and Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure- the Mayor told MEPs.
Trzaskowski admitted that existing international support for Warsaw coming from organizations such as UNICEF, the UN’s International Organization for Migration, and Taiwan may not be enough. Therefore, he is asking the EU to ensure that at least some of the money from the 2021-2027 Cohesion Fund goes directly to local governments. Especially considering that Poland’s Recovery and Resilience Plan remains deadlocked because of PiS’ rule of law violations.
MEPs asked the Mayor about the city’s specific needs. - We are talking about support for securing basic and long-term needs- he said. For example, because Warsaw's population has grown by 10%, the cost of maintaining city transportation has increased significantly. There is also a shortage of school places. - We have accepted 18,000 Ukrainian students, and we should have accepted even more. We need 20 new schools in Warsaw. If the European Union would help us finance two of them, for example, it would already be something- he argued.
According to Trzaskowski, Poland also needs a system to support the voluntary movement of refugees between cities. However, he did not provide any details, noting only that the refugee crisis requires the EU to implement non-standard ideas.
Adriana Porowska, president of the Camillian Mission for Social Assistance, also asked for EU funds to help refugees. - It is small organizations and individual people who have saved the face of Europe during this crisis. If you want the citizens of the member states to understand why we have this community, you know best how to make this money go directly to local governments and NGOs. And you can't do this in a year or six months- she said during the meeting.
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