WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS, March 24 (Reuters) – The US expects to absorb up to 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion and has pledged $1 billion in fresh humanitarian help, according to the Biden administration, after a month of bombardments triggered Europe’s fastest-moving refugee crisis since WWII ended.
The declaration came as US President Joe Biden met in Brussels with European leaders to coordinate the Western reaction to the situation.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, more than 3.5 million people have left, putting a strain on the neighbouring European countries that have taken them in. Biden has been challenged by US legislators and supporters to do more to assist individuals seeking asylum in the United States.
According to a senior Biden official, the administration still expects many Ukrainians to opt to stay in Europe near their homeland, but that the US commitment to accept more people will relieve some of the load on European countries that are presently hosting migrants.
“We know that some Ukrainians who have left may seek to come to the United States temporarily,” the official said on condition of anonymity to reporters.
In a statement, the Biden administration said it would employ “the entire spectrum of legal avenues,” including the US refugee resettlement programme, to transfer Ukrainians to the US.
Ukrainians may come as part of the endeavour through existing visa pathways and a relief programme known as “humanitarian parole,” which permits people into the nation without a visa on an emergency basis, the senior administration official said.
‘SHARING THE BURDEN’
Prior to the Ukraine crisis, Biden launched the largest US resettlement initiative since the Vietnam War, absorbing nearly 80,000 Afghans after US forces left Afghanistan after 20 years of conflict.
The 100,000 Ukrainians, unlike the Afghans, would not necessarily be permitted into the United States during the current fiscal year, which runs until the end of September, according to a US official.
As the violence worsened and the number of Ukrainians fleeing surged, seven Ukrainian refugees resettled in the United States in the first two weeks of March, according to confidential US State Department data reviewed by Reuters.
Eastern European countries, particularly Poland, have taken in the majority of those fleeing Russian shelling of Ukrainian cities and towns. Those countries want other countries to help them take in refugees, and the European Union is set to talk about “fair burden sharing.”
The US has committed billions of dollars in economic help to fleeing Ukrainians and countries that have taken them in.
The current effort to allow more Ukrainians into the US is part of a larger package of aid measures announced by the Biden administration on Thursday, which includes $1 billion in new funding for humanitarian assistance to support people still in Ukraine and “those affected by the global impacts of Russia’s war,” which Russia refers to as a “special military operation.”
The Biden administration will announce a new democracy and human rights programme aimed at providing at least $320 million in fresh financing to protect human rights in Ukraine and adjacent nations.
According to the government, the programme will capture and preserve evidence of suspected war crimes in Ukraine as part of a larger effort “to hold Russia accountable for its conduct.”
According to a Biden administration official, the US wants to ensure that women, children, LGBTQ people, and other potentially vulnerable groups have access to food, clean water, shelter, and medical treatment.