Concerns for safety of refugees grow as more Ukrainians flee the country

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By Katherine Berjikian  & Euronews
Refugee children look out from a bus leaving to Romania after fleeing the war from neighbouring Ukraine in Palanca, Moldova
Refugee children look out from a bus leaving to Romania after fleeing the war from neighbouring Ukraine in Palanca, Moldova   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Sergei Grits

A group of volunteers in Warsaw has transformed a sports centre into an emergency shelter to support the growing number of people crossing the border.

Piles of donated items, such as diapers and clothes, now fill the room of the Torwar Sports Centre. And the centre's arena is filled with rows of cots for people to sleep.

An estimated 1,300 people have already stayed in the centre since the war began. But the exact number of refugees taking shelter there at any given moment is hard to calculate.

"The number of those staying here is constantly rotating," said Malgorzata Naporowska, coordinator of the refugee centre. "They come, they leave. We are constantly organising transport, so a constant number is impossible to estimate."

Over 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the war started. A little under half of those people are children.

And as the number of refugees grows, so do concerns that some of them could be exploited by human traffickers and other forms of abuse.

One of the causes for concern is that the number of people staying with strangers is increasing. When the war started, friends or family housed 95% of those arriving in Poland. Now that number has decreased to 70%.

"The risk for these things to happen is very high," said Andreea Bujor, Communications Advocacy Director for World Vision Romania. "A lot of women are trafficked every year -- [and] children because it is a risk not only for women but also for children."

"As you see here, a lot of Romanians mobilised and I'm very proud, but the risks for other people to capitalise on the pain of these families is very high."

Police are giving many of the women arriving in Hungary advice on protecting themselves at the border. They are reportedly telling them to keep their phone batteries charged and document the license plates of cars they get into.