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Government-controlled part of Ukraine lost 2.4 million citizens due to migration during the war

Refugees from Ukraine. Illustrative photo
Government-controlled part of Ukraine lost 2.4 million citizens due to migration during the war

Border crossing data shows Ukraine lost only 2.4 million citizens during the war due to migration, not counting occupied areas, while the UN counts 6.2 million refugees in total. The difference is likely because the UN also counts people who were either deported or voluntarily left for Russia from occupied areas as “refugees,” according to Russian data. At the same time, the UN says its “figures represent an estimate, and potential further movements cannot be factored for the time being for all countries.”

The Ukrainian data on border crossing, provided by Ukraine’s State Border Guard service, shows that the number of Ukrainians who left Ukraine and haven’t returned since the war started is 2.4 million citizens.

It is important to note that the figure is relevant only to the government-controlled part of Ukraine. It is hard to estimate how many people left Russian-occupied territory and how many of them did it voluntarily. Russia didn’t allow people on occupied territories to leave in any direction but Russia, while further return from Russia to Ukraine through third countries was often complicated due to financial and legal issues.

A portion of Ukrainians also used to work in the EU before the war and, when the war started, returned to Ukraine. These are mainly men who went to fight or other categories of workers. This explains why the balance of migration is only minus 2.4 million while Western countries register slightly more people as refugees from Ukraine.

Border crossing to and from Ukraine during the war. Source: opendatabot

Russia also claimed it “accepted” 2.8 million Ukrainian “refugees.” UN takes this number for its estimates, bringing the total number of Ukrainian refugees to over 6 million. Whether this number is correct is hard to check.

According to the official statistics of the Ukrainian Border Guard Service, during one and a half years from January 2022 to June 2023, people crossed the border from Ukraine 26.36 million times and 23.66 million times to Ukraine. That makes a difference of 2.7 million stayings abroad compared to pre-war times, of which 2.4 million are Ukrainian citizens.

Almost 300,000 foreign citizens left Ukraine and haven’t returned in 2022 when the war started. Yet, in 2023 the situation reversed. As of the first half of the year, more foreign citizens entered Ukraine than left: the difference is 12,300 of those who stayed in Ukraine.

In the second half of 2022, Ukrainians were more actively returning to Ukraine from abroad than leaving Ukraine. In 2023 the situation stabilized: only 3% of those who left Ukraine in 2023 haven’t returned.

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