OSCE Special Representatives Visit Polish-Ukrainian Border

OrganizationsInternational Organizations ♦ Published: July 11, 2022; 14:15 ♦ (Vindobona)

Maria Raczynska, the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Youth and Security, and Lara Scarpitta, the OSCE Senior Adviser on Gender Issues, visited the Polish-Ukrainian border last week to assess the situation of refugees from Ukraine.

Poland has so far taken in over 1.2 million displaced persons from Ukraine. / Picture: © © Alissa Everett 2022

Last week, the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Youth and Security, Maria Raczynska, and the OSCE Senior Adviser on Gender Issues, Lara Scarpitta, visited the Polish-Ukrainian border to assess the situation of refugees from Ukraine.

The two representatives paid special attention to the welfare of the many women and children who had to flee from the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. A total of 1.2 million Ukrainians have already been registered in Poland, 94% of them women and children. The displaced have access to health care, education and employment in Poland.

"In Poland, society, government and local administration have shown enormous solidarity and compassion to the victims of Russian aggression against Ukraine. But the conflict and hardship are far from over. We must do everything in our power to end the war and ensure that it does not happen again. At the same time, we must not forget that the young people who seek protection and support from us will shape the future," Raczynska said.

"I have visited reception centres and transit points at railway stations. The emergency is far from over. Hundreds of women and children are still arriving from Ukraine every day. Poland deserves praise for taking on a great responsibility in the face of the refugee crisis caused by the war," Scarpitta said.

It was important for Scarpitta to emphasise that the risks of human trafficking have been exacerbated by the huge movement of refugees and that responses to these challenges urgently need to be strengthened to prevent further human suffering.

However, Scarpitta warned that a second large wave of refugees could be expected after the summer months, mainly due to the escalation of the armed conflict and the economic situation in Ukraine, but also due to the lack of fuel and some basic goods:

"The situation for neighbouring host countries is particularly challenging: housing rents have skyrocketed, there is a chronic shortage of childcare facilities and the education system is already overburdened as it struggles to absorb additional children."

As a result of a lack of childcare facilities, some women and children are at risk of prostitution and exploitation, including human trafficking.

"I was pleased to note that awareness of the risks of trafficking is high, especially among young girls and boys who have entered unaccompanied. However, services for victims of sexual and gender-based violence need to be strengthened," said the OSCE's senior gender advisor.

Meanwhile, Scarpitta praised UNHCR, non-governmental organizations, and local authorities for providing support and creating safe spaces for the most vulnerable.

"The war has massively affected everyone, but especially women and girls. More help is needed both in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries. The OSCE will continue to engage in these efforts," said Scarpitta.

OSCE Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe