Since the escalation of hostilities began in Ukraine on 24 February 2022, over 265,400 refugees arrived to Slovakia, the majority women and children as well as older people and those with disabilities. Many are in need of urgent medical care, including persons with chronic illnesses and those with mental and physical disabilities.
UNHCR is supporting government-led efforts through a multisectoral response focusing on protection, reception/shelter and material as well as cash assistance for most vulnerable groups and those with specific needs.
UNHCR and partners are present at border crossing points and other locations where refugees are assisted, including in urban areas, to provide information on rights and available services, identify vulnerable refugees and refer them to relevant services, and to monitor and reinforce reception conditions
Like other countries neighbouring Ukraine, Slovakia has seen the rapid influx of refugees fleeing hostilities at its four border crossing points with Ukraine, including women, children, older people and those with specific vulnerabilities. Many of those arriving have experienced trauma and distress associated with the conflict and require mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), while others are in need of urgent medical care to treat underlying illnesses. Border authorities continue to process new arrivals, providing information on temporary residence, asylum and temporary protection, with onward transport arranged for those seeking to reach urban centres.
Information is provided at all border crossing points (BCPs) alerting refugees to available services including accommodation, food, work opportunities, and healthcare. As of 23 March, over 50,850 individuals have applied for temporary protection in Slovakia, while others have moved on to other European countries. To respond to the scale, pace and complexity of the situation, UNHCR has declared Slovakia a Level 3 Emergency, the highest possible designation.
Local authorities are rapidly responding to process the high number of daily arrivals, with the Border and Aliens Police and Fire Rescue Service preparing reception centres and temporary hosting sites to accommodate those staying in Slovakia for short periods. Local communities have taken a welcoming stance, with humanitarian actors and members of civil society providing significant support at border reception points, including advice and referral to temporary housing, transportation, and legal counselling services. Further efforts are needed to ensure all arrivals are informed about the possibility to apply for temporary protection or asylum, as well as the rights associated with different legal statuses in Slovakia.
With the majority of arrivals to Slovakia comprising women and children, protection from sexual abuse and exploitation (PSEA) remains a critical priority. UNHCR is working with authorities to ensure that people of concern understand their rights, can access assistance, and can communicate any risks or report instances of SEA to humanitarian actors. Further capacity is needed to prevent the threat of illegal activity along border crossing points, including trafficking and exploitation.
Additional screening is also required to identify people with specific vulnerabilities, including older people and those with limited mobility or physical impairments. Comprehensive screening is also needed to identify and refer unaccompanied and seperated children (UASC) arriving at border crossing points to specalized services.