It’s estimated that in just a few short weeks, Poland has accepted over a million refugees from Ukraine. One might remember that in recent years, Poland was entirely opposed to accepting Syrian refugees, either directly traveling from the Middle East or as transfers from Italy.
There are a couple reasons why Poland has stood out in this refugee situation. This New York Times article doesn’t quite capture why the change. The first reason is that the Syrian refugees were primarily working-age men, and many were not from Syria at all but instead came from Afghanistan and Eritrea. Because Ukraine has forbidden all men aged 18–60 (!) from leaving the country — so that they can be conscripted or serve other useful purposes in a war for their national government’s survival — the vast majority of Ukrainian refugees are women and children. This presents other dangers, namely to the refugees themselves. While the Poles have responded with unbelievable charity and generosity, women and children in distress like this are supremely vulnerable to bad actors.
Another reason is that Poland in recent years has made Ukrainians into a source of domestic service and lower-wage job holders. Millions of Ukrainians have cycled through the Polish workforce in the last decade, with an average of about 1.2 million Ukrainians living in Poland on temporary visas at any one moment.
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