Europe has unanimously welcomed around 500,000 refugees who have fled Ukraine so far. But some non-Ukrainians fleeing the war-torn country were not treated with the same graciousness.
Since Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine last Thursday, half a million people have fled the country through various border crossings, according to the UN.
Neighbouring European Union states including Poland and Hungary, which have traditionally been hostile to refugees, opened their borders to Ukrainian families fleeing war. Those crossing are mostly women and children, as men aged 18 to 60 are required to stay behind and fight.
UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said 281,000 people had fled to Poland, more than 84,500 to Hungary, about 36,400 to Moldova, over 32,500 to Romania and about 30,000 to Slovakia. The rest were scattered in other countries, Mantoo said.
Some people arrive at border crossings after travelling for more than two days, often joining lines of people that stretch for kilometres in order to cross. In the last few days, traffic jams were seen on all major roads leading to Poland, with people crammed on buses, trains, or leaving their cars in the nearest town and walking - leaving behind their homes and, very often, their loved ones.
The UN refugee agency said it is preparing for the largest influx of refugees since the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis, and that up to 5 million could flee to neighbouring countries.
Some refugees are more welcome than others
Medyka is one of eight border crossings between Ukraine and Poland, where the Polish authorities have set up reception facilities. Refugees can find volunteers distributing food and blankets, but many wait for hours at the border before being able to cross.
Some leave their cars in the city of Mostyka and head to the border on foot. Poland already has a large community of around 1.5 million Ukrainians living and working there. Over the weekend, many were seen crossing the border into Ukraine, to either reunite with family or join the fight.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has slammed reports that the Polish authorities were refusing entry to some of his compatriots. There are about 4,000 Nigerian students in Ukraine.
“There have been unfortunate reports of Ukrainian police & security personnel refusing to allow Nigerians to board buses & trains heading towards the Ukraine-Poland border,” the Nigerian president tweeted.
Europeans show solidarity
Siret, in northern Romania, is the busiest border crossing between the two countries. Images over the weekend showed long queues of vehicles, with some people reportedly spending the night in the fields, waiting to cross. Romania shares a 650-kilometre border with Ukraine.NGOs and private citizens have mobilised to organise transport and accommodation for those fleeing, as well as food and essential items for distribution.
According to interior minister Lucian Bode, half of those who have entered since the war began have left the country.
Similar scenes unfolded at border crossings with neighbouring Moldova, Slovakia, and even Hungary, whose president Viktor Orban has in the past described refugees as “poison”.
Other countries across Europe said they would take in refugees from Ukraine. Serbia said on Monday it was ready to welcome refugees from Ukraine, while Montenegro and Croatia said some had already started arriving over the weekend.
Italy allocated 10 million euros ($11.2 million) to add up to 16,000 additional places in refugee reception centres around the country. Germany’s interior ministry said on Monday that 1,800 refugees have arrived in the country.