IOM and UNHCR on humanitarian admission from Moldova: Important program for the most vulnerable

Persons fleeing Ukraine waiting for the airlift to Austria (IOM/Monica Chiriac)

Needs of refugees from Ukraine as well as of neighboring countries are constantly increasing

Chișinău/Vienna – This weekend, the first refugees from Ukraine have arrived in Austria from Moldova through a humanitarian admission program, as part of the European Union Solidarity Platform.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and IOM, the International Organization for Migration, are working closely with the authorities of both Moldova and Austria, as well as the European Commission, to facilitate the transfers.

UNHCR is responsible for ensuring that the most vulnerable refugees can benefit from the program and identifies refugees in Moldova. The most vulnerable refugees will be prioritized, including people with disabilities, older people, those with severe medical conditions, and mothers with young children.

IOM ensures a safe and orderly journey for people fleeing Ukraine and their accompanying pets. This includes logistical support for the partners on the ground and especially for the beneficiaries, for example through pre-departure briefings for the upcoming flight, ground transport, airport assistance and accompanying the flights.

Participation in the programme is voluntary, and refugees make their own decision regarding transfer to Austria.

In Moldova, UNHCR is also informing refugees on what to expect in the new host country, including reception capacity and overall conditions, so they can make informed decisions.

"We welcome Austria's initiative to launch a pilot project for vulnerable refugees as part of the EU Solidarity Platform, which can serve as a blueprint for other EU countries," said Christoph Pinter, Head of UNHCR Austria.

"In the spirit of solidarity and responsibility-sharing, the admission program provides vulnerable refugees with protection and support, while at the same time relieving the Republic of Moldova, which is coming under increasing pressure due to high number of refugee arrivals."

"We are extremely grateful to the Austrian government for setting up this airlift for people who have fled Ukraine so quickly," said Marian Benbow Pfisterer, Head of IOM Austria. 

"In Ukraine, millions of people are forced to leave their homes and seek safety. The situation is constantly changing and the needs of vulnerable and displaced people are increasing dramatically."

Austria is the first EU country to implement a reception program under the EU Solidarity Platform. In total, Austria will welcome some 2,000 refugees from Ukraine through the program.

To-date, almost 3.5 million refugees have been forced to flee Ukraine since the onset of the war on 24 February, while 6.5 million have been displaced within Ukraine and this figure is increasing constantly.

Assistance in the Republic of Moldova

A total of about 360,000 refugees from Ukraine have arrived in the Republic of Moldova in the past three weeks. More than 100,000 are still in the country, which has a population of just around 2.7 million.

Together with national authorities, partner organizations and civil society, UNHCR is providing protection and assistance to refugees in Moldova. Protection for the most vulnerable is a priority, including children who arrive alone or were separated from their parents or caregivers during the flight, older people, people with disabilities, amongst others. UNHCR is also disseminating information for refugees, supporting with setting up emergency shelters, the delivery of relief supplies such as blankets and tents, the installation of heaters at border crossing points, and the installation of internet at border crossing points and other locations. A cash assistance program is also currently being established.

IOM is also providing assistance on the ground in Moldova with about 40 staff. To support the people affected by the Ukraine crisis, IOM has also launched a Flash Appeal.

Due to the high number of refugees and continued arrivals, UNHCR and IOM are assisting authorities to facilitate transfers to other countries.

Together with the authorities UNHCR and IOM have established a continuous bus service to bring refugees from Moldova to Romania to relieve pressure on the border regions in Moldova.

The humanitarian admission program provides additional support to those refugees for whom the situation on the ground is particularly challenging, who have specific needs and who have difficulty traveling individually.

Please find the Press Release in German here.

For more information, please contact:

IOM Country Office for Austria
Alexander Spiegelfeld
+43 1 585 33 22 10


SDG 1 - No Poverty
SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
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