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Refugees Welcome petition reaches milestone 250,000 signatures

Refugees Welcome petition reaches milestone 250,000 signatures
Refugees Welcome: The Independent has launched a campaign to support Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war

The Independent’s petition calling on the UK government to increase its support for Ukrainian refugees has now received more than 250,000 signatures.

Launched shortly after Russia invaded its neighbour on 24 February, the Refugees Welcome appeal reached its latest milestone earlier this week.

The campaign aims to get ministers to provide more food, clothing and shelter to care for Ukrainian refugees across Europe. It also seeks to encourage Boris Johnson’s government to do more to make Britain a safe haven for those fleeing the conflict.

Responding to the 250,000 signatures, Change.org said: “The Independent’s petition calling for urgent support for refugees from Ukraine has become one of the largest petitions to be started in the UK this year.

“It reached over 100,000 signatures in the first 48 hours after it was published, and since has continued to grow, with people from all corners of the country signing to show solidarity and call for government action.”

Alongside the petition, The Independent has raised more than £145,000 for Ukrainian refugees, which exceeded our original target of £100,000. We have now jointly raised more than £400,000 along with our sister title the Evening Standard and also with £56,000 of match funding from the government.

Initially, donations went to the Red Cross and Save the Children. But since 3 March, they have been split more widely, with all funds going towards the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which supports more than a dozen NGOs with their relief work.

The DEC’s 13 member charities are: Action Against Hunger, ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide UK, International Rescue Committee UK, Oxfam, Save the Children UK, Plan International UK, and World Vision UK.

Every donation from our readers to the DEC appeal was matched pound-for-pound by the UK government, up to £20m.

The sight of civilians fleeing their war-torn country has stirred hearts across the world, leading to an outpouring of generosity.

In less than seven weeks, a total of 4,736,471 people have travelled across the Ukrainian border into neighbouring countries, according to the UN. They often face dangerous journeys to reach safety.

Nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have now been forced to flee their homes since Russian troops invaded, with Unicef describing the scale of this displacement as “quite incredible”.

The humanitarian situation in Ukraine remains dire, particularly in the long-besieged city of Mariupol, where tens of thousands of residents are thought to be in need of critical assistance.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 4,577 civilian fatalities in Ukraine, but acknowledges the true death toll is likely to be much higher.

Last month, Ekataryn Velychko, 35, a mother who had escaped from Mariupol with her daughter Anastasia, 8, and son Radion, 5, reached Hungary.

“I have come from hell on earth,” she told The Independent. “For weeks we were in the basement with no water, no food, no electricity and no gas. My house is destroyed, the city is 90 per cent destroyed. Most people cannot get out. It is terrifying. My children are completely broken.”

Bel Trew, one of our reporters in Ukraine, has seen the horrors of Russia’s war in Ukraine up close.

She said: “I have watched families walk 50km through the snow to the border. Many are battling through freezing conditions, carrying their children, their pets and scant belongings; all to try to get to safety. I have spoken to teenagers and to children who were separated from their parents in the chaotic efforts to flee, who are now making the terrifying journey to safety – alone.

“I have spoken to people stuck in the cities under bombardment, who are unable to get out and are now struggling to find food, water and shelter.

“Every single one of them pleaded for the world to help.”

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.