The Russian-Ukrainian war causes the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II

More than 2.5 million Ukrainians fled to neighboring countries as Russia launched attacks on civilians to capture their homeland – and more are expected to leave.

As the violence escalates, USC experts say reports of Russian war crimes against civilians are flowing to the UN Security Council for referral to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The allegations include sexual assaults and unlawful targeting of civilians in places such as schools, hospitals and public services.

These crimes and the mass displacement of Ukrainians “may amount to crimes against humanity,” said Hannah Garry, founder of the International Human Rights Clinic at USC Gould School of Law. “Russia’s threats to annihilate the Ukrainian state and national identity could amount to allegations of genocide.”

Horrifying Memories of War Refugees in the Civil War of the Former Yugoslavia

For David Schwartz, the war awakens horrible memories of the civil war of the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia. An associate professor of psychology at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Schwartz served as a consultant to the United Nations aid organization UNICEF after the war, as part of international reconstruction efforts to help the peoples of what became Croatia and Bosnia. He has seen firsthand how trauma scars children and their families for generations and decades after war.

“The parallels between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the horrific events of World War II and the Cold War seem obvious,” Schwartz said. “However, an even clearer connection may exist with more recent events in modern Europe. In the early 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina sought to establish a multi-ethnic nation from the ashes of the former Yugoslavia. A brutal civil war then ensued, marked by genocide, the systematic killing of unarmed civilians, mass rapes and ethnic cleansing.

We already had 2 million Ukrainians living in Poland before the war.

Katarzyna PisarskaCenter for Public Diplomacy

Many Ukrainian refugees flee to Poland. Katarzyna Pisarska, a faculty member at the Center for Public Diplomacy at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, helped them.

“There is this connection between Poland and Ukraine, which I think also plays a very important role in the war [that] happening as we speak. We already had 2 million Ukrainians living in Poland before the war,” said Pisarska, who is also the founder and director of the European Academy of Diplomacy in Poland. “In recent years, Poland has issued the highest number of work visas for citizens outside the European Union – more than any other EU country.”

Will the United States welcome Ukrainian refugees?

The question for many political analysts is whether the United States will also open its arms to Ukrainian refugees.

“Advocates will pay particular attention to whether and how the Biden administration is creating a safe path for those fleeing Ukraine, and whether these next steps incorporate best practices learned following the Afghan evacuation in August 2021,” said Henna Pithia, a clinical visitor. professor at the USC Gould School and director of the school’s International Human Rights Clinic.

“It should be noted that many will be watching to see what happens to the [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] humanitarian parole program and whether the processing of refugees overseas can be expedited,” she said. “Similarly, many will wonder whether the US government will offer expedited consular services to Ukrainian nationals in third countries, and whether the United States will grant Ukrainian nationals temporary protected status here in the United States.”

For war refugees, the trauma continues

Schwartz is especially worried about the children of Ukraine. He said the international community should do everything possible to end the war.

These young people will have to learn to move forward in a world that has fundamentally changed.

David SchwartzUSC Dornsife
associate professor of psychology and education

He knows that the trauma does not stop when the war is over.

“A new generation of traumatized children and adolescents will need tremendous services as they recover from the impact of exposure to the violence of war, flight from their homes and forced separation from family members and friends,” Schwartz said.

“In simple terms, these young people will have to learn to move forward in a world that has fundamentally changed. The tasks ahead are formidable and the world must respond with a multi-pronged mental health intervention. »

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