Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has created a refugee crisis the likes of which hasn’t been seen in decades. More than 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled their country in the roughly three weeks since the invasion began—most of them to the neighboring European countries of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania.
“The refugee crisis … has been one of the most troubling aspects, to say the least, of the invasion,” says Serena Parekh, Northeastern professor of philosophy, who has written extensively on refugees and the ethics of forced displacement. “The sheer number of people leaving the country is nothing that we’ve seen in recent history.”
The demographics of the refugee population are striking, too, Parekh says. “Of the 2 million refugees who have crossed a border, 1 million are children—this refugee crisis is unique in that the refugees are almost entirely women and children,” Parekh says. Ukrainian men who are between 18 and 60 years old are banned from leaving the country and encouraged to fight while Ukraine remains under martial law.