The military conflict between Russia and Ukraine has forced roughly 1 million Ukrainians to leave their country. Throughout Europe, a wave of solidarity with Ukrainian people is being manifested in all forms and shapes. In Belgium, thousands of refugees will be welcomed in more than 10,000 temporary shelters.
1. Residents and municipalities
Belgium is one of the many countries offering a temporary safe haven for the influx of Ukrainian refugees entering the European Union. More than 10,000 housing spaces will be made available to accommodate Ukrainian refugees following the request from the country’s State Secretary for Migration Sammy Mahdi asking residents and municipalities to offer temporary shelter to the refugees.
One Lithuanian lawyer resident in Brussels with her husband and three children, Aiste Slezeviciute, is among those who signed up to accommodate Ukrainian refugees, according to The Brussels Times.
“Given that I am originally from Lithuania and the fact [that] I speak Russian, the news really shocked me deeply, because it’s just that little bit closer to home,” said Slezeviciute.
The Lithuanian woman said she offered to help as a translator for refugees who don’t speak French or English to assist them with administration and logistics and stocked up on medicine to send to the war-torn country.
“I went to pharmacies who kindly gave me discounts because I was buying paracetamol in bulk, so you can really see everyone is trying to help,” she said.
2. Hotel sector opens doors to refugees
The hotel sector in Belgium has also stood up to help those arriving in the country. Nearly 200 rooms have been made available, free of charge, waiting to receive Ukrainian refugees, the Brussels Hotels Association (BHA) announced on 3 March.
This solidarity initiative brings together both chain hotels and independent hotels in and around the Brussels region.Brussels Hotels Association
3. Refugees reach 1 million
In just one week of armed conflict, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi estimates that around 1 million people fled Ukraine. “I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years, and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one,” said Grandi in a video statement on 3 March.
On February 28, the Secretary for Migration Sammy Mahdi told RTL radio that anyone entering EU territory from war-torn Ukraine would immediately acquire refugee status lasting two years.