Tuesday 21 June 2022

11th UIC Refugee Task Force meeting held on 20 June 2022

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The 11th UIC Refugee Task force meeting was attended remotely on 20 June 2022 by around 35 participants from across Europe, with representatives from UIC member railways and partner organisations.

Marc Guigon, UIC Passenger Director, Coordinator Middle-East and Latin American Regions, Coordinator UIC Refugee Task Force, together with Vanessa Pérez Miranda, UIC Senior Passenger Advisor, welcomed the participants.

Anton Pylypchuk, representing Ukrainian Railways (UZ), shared the latest news regarding the situation in Ukraine and thanked Swiss Railways for the aid that had been sent. He said that it has now been over 100 days since the war started, with almost four million people having been evacuated and 100,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid delivered to the country. He gave an update on the extent of the damage that has been done to the railway infrastructure and the costs involved. Most recently, three European leaders – French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi visited Kyiv to meet top officials, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Nick Brooks, Secretary General of ALLRAIL, the public affairs association based in Brussels, gave a presentation on his association’s Multinational Support Ukraine Rail Task Force which provides a discussion forum for policy support for refugee trains. Its three key objectives are:

  • Donation campaign to help the rail sector, the proceeds of which go to financing refugee trains and providing first aid kits and food, among others;
  • Focus on technologies and improvements necessary to expediting movement of replacement oil and gas supplies from elsewhere towards the EU for replacement of current Russian exports;
  • Rebuilding the railway infrastructure – replacing destroyed tracks and stations and investing in transport terminals at the frontiers, with a longer term aim of reorienting the entire network to cater for people and goods towards the EU.

Philip Van den bosch, Senior UIC Freight Advisor, took the floor to talk about freight initiatives by the Commission, notably the appointment of national contact points per country to solve regulatory and interoperability issues from low noise to sanitary restrictions. The aim is to have a platform where offers and demands can be matched, where companies can offer services for shipping goods, such as grains and other materials, to and from Ukraine. He highlighted the need for an overarching coordination between the different contacts such as inland waterways and terminal operators to match and create links and find rapid solutions.

Agnieszka Sobkiewicz, representing PKP (Polish Railways), gave an update on refugee statistics concerning Poland, with 7.5 million people having fled Ukraine to Poland since 24 February and 4.1 million having crossed the Polish border from Ukraine. She added that over the last fortnight, the overall flow of refugees has been decreasing as many people are now returning to Ukraine.

A round table discussion then followed to discuss the current situation per impacted country and company. Updates were given, among others, from Switzerland, Hungary and Spain.

Daria Kardel, Senior UIC Security Advisor, gave an update on the results of the questionnaire conducted by the Network of Quick Responders within the UIC Security Division on the issue of crowd management and accessibility. The questionnaire showed results of 12 answers from members across the globe for the period between 20 April to 18 May on the types of measures put in place to address the issue of crowd management in the current crisis, such as special platforms to receive refugees. Daria added that if members are interested in reading the full report, they can visit the UIC Rail Security Hub, where all the answers will eventually be published.

Marc Guigon concluded by thanking the participants for attending the meeting. The Task Force members agreed that for future meetings, the name of the Refugee Task Force needs to be changed as the emphasis has shifted more towards freight coordination and transport. An internal discussion needs to be held in more detail on this topic.

Members are encouraged to share their thoughts, either by writing to the internal UIC Refugee Task Force team refugees@uic.org or by posting in the UIC Extranet dedicated workspace.

A Task Force LinkedIn group is open to members. Feel free to join the group and share your thoughts: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/14061600/

A dedicated webpage of the Refugee Task Force is available on the UIC website: https://uic.org/refugees/

For any further questions or proposals for contributions to these Task Force meetings, please email: refugees@uic.org

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