After the unthinkable happened and Russian troops marched into Ukraine, one thing quickly became clear: Hundreds of thousands, and likely millions, of civilians will be displaced by this war. As of this writing, the number of Ukrainians fleeing the country is approaching 400,000. Had the invasion been limited to the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, it may have been possible to contain refugee flows from these regions to the rest of Ukraine. That, unfortunately, is not the case. With attacks happening all over Ukraine, no part of the country can be considered particularly safe, and thus other countries need to be prepared to accept refugees.
Aiding refugees is a noble ambition, but can be effective only if it’s accompanied by a well-thought out strategy.
First, countries should be accepting only women, children, and older men. Ukraine has banned all men between the age 18 to 60 from leaving the country, as they are needed to defend their country. As much as we can empathize with the young men who are afraid of being drafted, granting them asylum would undercut Ukraine’s ability to defend itself. Furthermore, the burden of proof needs to be on the male asylum seekers to prove that they are not within this age range, as migration agencies will likely be too overwhelmed to verify ages.
Fortunately so far this does not seem to be a great problem, as Ukrainians have shown strong morale—in fact, some Ukrainian expats are returning to Ukraine to fight the invaders.