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Romanian civil society is ready to help Ukrainian refugees

The war in Ukraine, following the Russian aggression, has triggered a new wave of refugees in Europe. Romania, one of the countries bordering Ukraine, is offering humanitarian assistance to all refugees coming at its borders. The civil society has mobilized to support.

According to official numbers, over 75.000 persons, displaced by war, have entered Romania in the first three days after the start of the Russian aggression. Thousands more are still waiting at long queues at the border crossings.

Dozens of civil society organizations and thousands of Romanians are mobilizing to complement the efforts of the state in assisting the refugees. Volunteers are offering immediate relief – food, water, blankets, warm clothes and medicine – at the border points. Self-organized networks of citizens offer transportation and accommodation for those in need. Specialized NGOs are prepared to offer services such as social assistance and psychological support. Many of the refugees are only transiting Romania, heading west, but there are plans afoot to offer medium and long term support to those seeking shelter. The platforms dopomoha.ro (‘dopomoha’ is ‘help’ in Ukrainian) and refugees.ro, created by volunteers, are offering essential information in Ukrainian and English, and matching offers for supports with immediate needs.

The Coalition for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees (CDMiR), created in the framework of the NIEM project, has quickly organized from the first day of war. The Coalition aims to support the structured dialogue and complementarity with the state’s actions, in addition to the support offered on the ground by its members.

On Thursday, 24th, the Coalition was in the center of a letter supported by hundreds of NGOs, addressed to the government, and asking urgent action and better organization at the borders. As an immediate result, the cooperation between the public institutions and NGOs, on the ground, has improved, and the government setup a central coordination unit, including civil society representatives. On Monday, 28th, the prime-minister office invited the representatives of the civil society organizations to a coordination meeting, to discuss medium and long-term plans.

On 25th, all day, the Coalition put together, in a rapid reaction, an online national event. In three thematic sessions during the day, CDMiR consulted with over 100 NGOs representatives from organizations working on development, social services, and community support. The CDMiR members provided basic legal and logistics information, aiming at better organizing the outstanding reaction of the society. Representatives of the Emergency Situation Department, the institution coordinating the relief effort, were present during the day.

The Human Rights Committee of the Romanian Senate (the upper chamber of the Parliament) organized the last meeting of the day. In the presence of the representatives of the public institutions, the CDMiR members explained what the major challenges on the ground are, and what immediate actions are expected. The government immediately accepted some of the suggestions, for example to include social assistance in the coordination teams at the border.