U.S. should prepare for Ukrainian immigrants, expert based in Wheaton says

  • People fleeing the conflict in neighboring Ukraine arrive at a train station in Przemysl, Poland, on Friday. The mass exodus of refugees ultimately could result in more Ukrainian immigrants to the U.S., an expert says.

    People fleeing the conflict in neighboring Ukraine arrive at a train station in Przemysl, Poland, on Friday. The mass exodus of refugees ultimately could result in more Ukrainian immigrants to the U.S., an expert says. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/25/2022 3:47 PM

The United States should prepare for an influx of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian military invasion, a Wheaton-based expert on humanitarian crises said.

"The refugee exodus is beginning," said Kent Annan, director of the Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership graduate program at Wheaton College. "We're yet to see what the full scale will be."

 

The United Nations has said the Russian invasion could lead to as many as 5 million displaced people.

Countries bordering Ukraine, including Poland and Romania, are likely destinations, Annan said.

Kent Annan is director of the Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership graduate program at Wheaton College. He says the U.S. should prepare for an influx of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian military invasion.
Kent Annan is director of the Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership graduate program at Wheaton College. He says the U.S. should prepare for an influx of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian military invasion. - Courtesy of Kent Annan

Many evacuees are driving or walking to the Ukranian border "having left everything behind," Annan said.

"We're all watching a tragedy unfold in real time," he said.

Humanitarian organizations and other nations will have to help those countries assist the people arriving at their borders, Annan said.

World Relief, a Christian group that has offices in Carol Stream, Aurora and elsewhere, is monitoring the situation and is "working with partners to respond as needed," according to a news release.

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"It is critical that as large numbers of Ukrainians flee the conflict, surrounding countries in the region allow those fleeing conflict to find safety and refuge there," Jenny Yang, senior vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, said in the release.

Over the last 18 years, World Relief has resettled more than 13,000 refugees from Ukraine, the release said.

How many Ukranians will seek shelter in the U.S. isn't yet known. Fortunately, Annan said, the U.S. has been rebuilding its capacity to welcome refugees. People fleeing violence in Afghanistan have been the focus over the past year or so, he said.

"My first hope is that (resettling refugees in the U.S.) isn't necessary," Annan said. "If that fails, my second hope is that we would be ready to welcome Ukrainian refugees because, as a country and state, we've shown the capacity to do this well in the past."

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