Warsaw mayor asks for more support, coordination on Ukraine refugees

·2-min read
U.S. President Biden visits Poland

By Joanna Plucinska

WARSAW (Reuters) - The international community and Poland's government need to coordinate better and provide more support directly to local governments and charities helping Ukrainian refugees in Poland, Warsaw's mayor said on Thursday.

"We need the European Union and the United Nations to step in to actually institute a full coordinating mechanism," Rafal Trzaskowski, who is a member of Poland's leading opposition grouping, the Civic Platform, told Reuters in an interview.

The government needed to ask for such help, he said, "and only then will we be able to deal with the magnitude of the problem".

Warsaw, along with other major urban centres in Poland such as Krakow and Wroclaw, have accepted thousands of refugees, with Warsaw's population growing by around 15% since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Poland has received international praise for its handling of the refugee crisis, with almost 3 million people entering the country in less than two months.

But Trzaskowski, a long-time critic of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, said there needed to be a better pipeline of funding to those on the frontline of the crisis.

"We need direct assistance because there is no strategy on the part of the government. A lot of what you see in Poland is based on improvisation," Trzaskowski said.

In late 2019, Trzaskowski and a group of mayors from central and eastern European cities who were in opposition to their ruling national governments had asked for more direct access to EU funds.

The group consider themselves more pro-EU and politically liberal than their respective national governments, some of which have clashed with Brussels over EU rules and standards.

But Deputy Interior Minister Pawel Szefernaker told Reuters that the national government was keen to cooperate with cities and charities and that they were working hard to coordinate.

"We are at the end of the humanitarian help phase of the crisis and we are moving towards the adaptation phase," Szefernaker said. "We have to work on a common approach."

(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Kuba Stezycki; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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