Biggest challenges for war refugees from Ukraine in Lithuania

Some 42% of Ukrainians indicated that they do not intend to return to Ukraine at the moment, as long as it is not safe to do so, and would rather stay in Lithuania, with the main influencing factor being family members and friends in the neighbourhood. However, 57% of respondents in the long term indicate that they plan to return to Ukraine as soon as they have the opportunity, according to a survey conducted by the International Organisation for Migration Vilnius office, according to the press release from the IOM Vilnius office.

IOM Lithuania conducted a survey of Ukrainians who arrived in Lithuania after the outbreak of war in Ukraine on 24 February. The survey was carried out between 6 September and 11 November and involved about 600 respondents – war refugees from Ukraine.

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“The first thing we wanted to find out was what obstacles Ukrainians face when they come to Lithuania, as well as their expectations. Then, we can more accurately identify needs and target specific assistance with a clearer portrait. I think it is important not to be absolutist in this case because we are talking about specific people with specific needs,” says Eitvydas Bingelis, Head of IOM Lithuania.

The Ukrainians have settled in 13 Lithuanian cities, the majority of them (84%) are women, and the average age is 40 years. 80% of the people who participated in the survey say they came from big cities, while around 20% came from smaller towns. The majority of respondents, 78%, came from Ukraine after crossing the Polish border, 8% came from Latvia, 8% came from Russia, and 1% came from Belarus. Some of the respondents noted that it was challenging to get through the Russian border, that people with disabilities and children were not provided with adequate facilities, and that they had to spend a lot of time at the border. Most of the arrivals came from Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya, Kyiv and Donetsk oblasts.

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More than half of the Ukrainians (51%) live in rented accommodation for which they pay the rent themselves. Around 17% of war refugees live in free flats, which they receive through organisations or with the municipality’s help. Another 9% stay with family members or friends, 7% in hostels, 5% in hotels and 4% rent an apartment or house from an acquaintance. Another 2% stayed in temporary reception centres.

According to the survey, 55% of the respondents were employed before the outbreak of the war, and 8% were self-employed. 50% of respondents who had a job in Ukraine found a job in Lithuania. 29 % were looking for work at the time of the survey. More than Ukrainians in Lithuania have found a job, most of them in Vilnius. Some 29 % of respondents are also currently looking for a job.

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“From the survey and from what people tell us, the biggest difficulties faced by Ukrainians in Lithuania are the language barrier, long-term renting and financial deprivation. Ukrainians are looking for various solutions to become independent and less dependent on other people. Still, not all of them have managed to settle in Lithuania yet”, says Eglė Staškūnaitė, Head of Migrant Assistance and Crisis Management at IOM Lithuania.

The study was conducted using the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) method, which is designed to examine the behaviour and needs of people who have moved to another country. It is mainly related to humanitarian aspects: health, the need for food and water, sense of security. This approach allows them to react as quickly as possible to the situation and to provide adequate living conditions for people who have left their country.

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There are currently more than 70 000 war refugees from Ukraine in Lithuania.

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