France ready to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees

The number of refugees arriving in France as they flee the Russian invasion of Ukraine is 'increasing rapidly' the government has said - but it remains a small fraction of the total number of people who have been displaced by the conflict.

France ready to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees
A Ukrainian woman at a emergency refuge in the main hall of an athletic complex in the Moldovan capital Kishinev. (Photo: Menahem Kahana / AFP)

Thousands of refugees from Ukraine have arrived in France already and the country is preparing to welcome as many as 100,000 people.

The number of Ukrainian refugees arriving in France “is increasing rapidly”, according to Prime Minister Jean Castex. France, along with other EU member states, does not require Ukrainians to have a visa for entry and has brought in a scheme to allow them to stay visa-free for at least a year.

The French government anticipates the arrival in the coming weeks of “50,000, maybe 100,000” people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, Joseph Zimet, coordinator of the interministerial crisis unit, said in a press conference.

READ ALSO How you can help Ukrainians in Paris and across France

Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin also said that 7,500 Ukrainians had already arrived in France since the beginning of the war – and the country is ready to receive many more. “We have gone from 10,000 to 25,000 accommodation places in three days,” he continued. 

The numbers heading as far west as France are just a small percentage of the total of more than two million refugees who have fled Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. 

Poland has already received 1.2 million people, Hungary 190,000, Moldova 83,000, Romania 82,000 and Slovakia 140,000. According to the mayor of Kiev, former boxer Vitali Klitschko, half of the city’s 3.5 million inhabitants have fled the capital.

France is also hosting Ukrainians who want to join family in the UK, but have been turned back at the border by British officials, since the UK still requires visas from Ukrainians who wish to enter the country. 

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France ‘strongly condemns’ Russia’s expulsion of its diplomats

France "strongly condemns" the expulsion of 34 of its diplomats by Russia, the foreign ministry said Wednesday, a tit-for-tat move by Moscow after Paris ordered some Russian staff to leave.

France 'strongly condemns' Russia's expulsion of its diplomats

Saying the step had “no legitimate basis”, the ministry said in a statementthat “the work of the diplomats and staff at (France’s) embassy in Russia… takes place fully within the framework of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations” — whereas Paris expelled the Russian staff in April on suspicion of being spies.

Moscow said Wednesday it was expelling 34 “employees of French diplomatic missions” in a tit-for-tat move following the
expulsion of Russian diplomats from France as part of joint European action over Russia’s campaign in Ukraine.

“Thirty four employees of French diplomatic missions in Russia have been declared persona non grata,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that they have two weeks to leave the country.

Moscow made the announcement after summoning France’s ambassador to Russia, Pierre Levy, and telling him that the expulsion of 41 employees of Russian diplomatic missions was a “provocative and unfounded decision”, the statement

“It has been stressed that this step causes serious damage to Russian-French relations and constructive bilateral cooperation,” the foreign ministry said.

French President Emmanuel Macron initially led diplomatic outreach to the Kremlin over Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine but his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin have eventually tapered off and overt French military
support to Ukraine has increased in recent months.