Over 3.3 million Ukrainians have fled the country, while over 6.5 million have been internally displaced. To deal with this human exodus, Poland has accepted nearly 2 million Ukrainian refugees, Romania about 500,000, Moldova 350,000, and other countries such as Hungary and Slovakia have chipped in.
Up to ten million Ukrainians may flee Russia’s war on Ukraine. There haven’t been this many displaced people in Europe since World War II.
So far, Europe has borne the brunt of the refugee crisis, especially countries bordering Ukraine, such as Poland. All America has done is grant Ukrainians who are already in the country Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months.
This shields approximately 75,000 Ukrainians in the United States from deportation and allows them to apply for work permits. However, it does not address the immediate and pressing Ukrainian problem in Europe. If American inaction in the face of this overwhelming burden on the world stage continues, it could pose a serious threat to NATO unity.
An immediate partial solution to the problem would be for the United States and other allied countries to resolve to accept a number of immigrants based on their connections to family members in the United States who are willing to support them upon their arrival. In the case of the United States, for example, 75,000 Ukrainians would be roughly equal to the number of Afghan refugees recently targeted.
Processing should proceed overseas by immigration officers from the United States. Other countries who are dispatched there need to clear the applicants by establishing their ties to family. More, they need to screen for medical, police, and security reasons. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and other countries could adopt similar procedures.
Another thing America could do is waive the visa requirement for Ukrainians visiting the United States for a period of time, say two years. Applicants may screen themselves using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) pre-travel online program. This screens out visitors who have criminal, immigration, or medical issues.
To address some immediate concerns, consider that, in the absence of financial assistance, most such would-be applicant visitors will not have the resources to travel to the United States, so the risk of a flood of refugees is minimal. Furthermore, men between the ages of 18 and 60 cannot leave Ukraine. This is almost without exception. Since the declaration of martial law, they have to enlist for service in the country’s defense. That means that the majority of visitors to the United States would be women and children, posing a little security risk.
Even so, many will come with the help of Americans who will cover the cost of their travel and accommodations while they are here. America should also follow in the footsteps of other countries, such as Canada and Germany, by providing such Ukrainian migrants with the option of a temporary open work permit upon arrival and being willing to extend such stays until things settle in Europe.
Every cloud, they say, has a silver lining. The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine provides the world with an unprecedented opportunity to adopt an international solution to a long-standing international problem. It provides a means of meeting the needs of millions of Americans who have family and friends living elsewhere. They could come to US as displaced persons in search of family reunification.
Such a solution represents today’s best hope for humanely responding to an impossible problem and resolving it in the most equitable manner possible. It is up to us to abandon our antiquated approach to displaced people, which has failed for decades and find a modern way to effectively deal with them.