In May 2022 as around 15 million Ukrainians fled their homes, the number of people forcefully displaced across the world passed the 100 million mark for the first time. This is equivalent to the world’s 14th largest country, with 53 percent composed of internally displaced peoples (IDPs) and 47 percent of refugees fleeing their countries. Prior to this, there had been 41.1 million refugees in 2010, 71 million in 2018 (led by the 2012-2015 Syrian war upsurge), and 89 million in 2021, with conflicts in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and elsewhere causing the surge

Of the forcibly displaced Ukrainians, some 8 million are IDPs and 7 million are refugees, making it the most rapid and largest single increase in forcibly displaced populations since WWII. There are some 2.2 million returnees, including civilians returning to cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv as men come back to fight, and an end to the violence is unlikely anytime soon.

Poland was the entry point for most Ukrainian refugees (3.7 million), including hundreds of thousands who moved further West, and another 1.5 million who have since returned home. As of June 2022, there were also over a million refugees in Russia, 700,000 in Hungary, 600,000 in Romania (283,000 returnees), and around 500,000 each in Moldova (110,000 returnees) and Slovakia (196,000 returnees). According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), these neighboring countries aside, the top three Ukrainian refugee hosts are Germany (780,000), the Czech Republic (366,000), and Turkey (145,000).

The welcome and resources made available to the Ukrainian refugees are unprecedented. Under the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive, Ukrainians receive the right to work and access to health, education, housing, and other services for up to three years. Before the war, Ukrainians could enter the EU visa-free for up to three months and a million were working legally and others informally. This diaspora was important in absorbing Ukrainian refugees.

The welcome is in sharp contrast to what asylum seekers from Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and non-European refugees from Ukraine have faced. Poland continues to prevent non-European migrants from entering the country from Belarus while welcoming Ukrainians. Britain is trying to ship non-European asylum seekers to Rwanda to process applications, and Denmark is likely to follow suit.

This “whole-of-the-EU” approach to the Ukrainian refugee crisis contrasts with the 2015 refugee influx, which prompted many EU members to close their borders to refugees. Yet, the former incorporates useful lessons even though they are unlikely to be extended to non-Europeans anytime soon. While each instance of refugee flows is distinct, some broad lessons emerge. For example, we know that refugees tend to stay displaced for prolonged periods, ranging between 10 and 26 years. European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas estimates that up to 3 million Ukrainians will stay in Europe, a boon to a continent facing demographic decline.

Read the full article about lessons in global displacement by Omer Karasapan at Brookings.