The number of people crossing from Poland into Ukraine has begun to exceed those travelling in the other direction for the first time since Russia’s invasion, after which Poland become the primary destination for those fleeing the war.
On Saturday, deputy interior minister Paweł Szefernaker noted that the previous two days had seen “fewer Ukrainians enter Poland than crossed to Ukraine”. That trend has since continued over Saturday and Sunday.
Szefernaker said that this was the first time that the flow of traffic over the border had been reversed. However, a similar situation occurred over the previous weekend, as data from the Polish border guard compiled by Andrzej Kubisiak, deputy head of the Polish Economics Institute, show.
Przepływy migracyjne 🇵🇱-🇺🇦 (stan 24.04)
▶️Ostatnie 4. dni z ujemnym saldem migracyjnym❗️
▶️Napływ do🇵🇱9,8 tys. – najniższy wynik od 24.02
▶️Liczba wyjazdów z 🇵🇱11,8 tys.
▶️O ostatnim tygodniu więcej osób wyjechało do🇺🇦135,9 tys. niż wjechało do🇵🇱(129,8tys) pic.twitter.com/nIUYYtryeU
— Andrzej Kubisiak (@KubisiakA) April 25, 2022
This weekend, queues formed on the Polish side as more than 800 cars and 250 trucks waited to enter Ukraine at the Dorohusk crossing, while at Medyka about 700 cars were lining up, wrote Polish news website Wirtualna Polska.
“In Dorohusk, the waiting time to cross was about 10 hours while in Zosin it was around four,” said border guard spokesman, Dariusz Sienicki.
One reason for the recent rise in crossings may be Ukrainians returning temporarily to celebrate Easter, said Szefernaker. For Orthodox and other eastern churches, Easter was celebrated yesterday, while for Catholics it was a week earlier.
There have also been reports of refugees moving back home after Russian forces withdrew from some occupied areas, including around the capital Kyiv.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government is paying out special war benefits and offering housing support for those who lost homes or had to relocate to other parts of the country, writes financial news service Money.pl.
Paweł Kaczmarczyk, director of the Centre of Migration Research at the University of Warsaw, told OKO.press that the crossings data alone do not tell us exactly who is leaving nor why. While some may be returning permanently, others could be “going back to pick up their stuff or visit their relatives”.
Since Russia’s invasion on 24 February, almost three million people have crossed from Ukraine into Poland. As of yesterday, the figure stood at 2.944 million, announced the Polish border guard.
The initial period of the war saw the numbers crossing into Poland surpassing 100,000 per day, reaching a peak of over 140,000. But those figures have been in decline since 7 March, falling to between 10,000 and 20,000 in recent days.
From the start of the conflict, some Ukrainians travelled in the opposite direction, in particular those returning to defend their homeland. But those numbers have been steadily rising as refugees also return, surpassing 20,000 on some days and now outnumbering crossings into Poland.
Main image credit: Patryk Ogorzalek / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Agnieszka Wądołowska is deputy editor of Notes from Poland. She has previously worked for Gazeta.pl and Tokfm.pl and contributed to Gazeta Wyborcza, Wysokie Obcasy, Duży Format, Midrasz and Kultura Liberalna