Against the Tide: Ukrainian Refugees and their Journeys Home - IOM Hungary's Newest Data on the Ukraine Refugee Crisis from the Field

IOM Hungary Field Teams at work

Budapest, 14 June 2023 – According to IOM Hungary’s most recent Crossing to Ukraine: Surveys with Refugees on Destinations, Length of Stay & Assistance Report for Quarter 1 survey data, Ukrainian refugees swimming against the tide and re-entering Ukraine, either for short-term or long-term stays, are particularly in need of transportation, information, financial support and health services

More than 5.2 million people have been internally displaced in Ukraine due to the Russian war in Ukraine,1 and a further 7.7 million have fled to safety across international borders such as Hungary’s.2 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) carries out regular surveys with displaced persons that fled the war in Ukraine and are now crossing back. IOM conducts this field research in order to better understand the current trends, and based on this information, know how to best respond to the changing needs of its beneficiaries. IOM Hungary’s Crossing to Ukraine highlights the following key findings from those interviewed as they make their way back to Ukraine from or through Hungary:

  • Top 3 countries of temporary stay abroad: Hungary (59%), Germany (10%), Austria (9%);
  • Top needs upon crossing back to Ukraine: transportation (29%), information (28%), financial support (25%) and health services (22%); 
  • Top areas of assistance received: transportation support (85%), financial support (60%), food supplies (54%) and accommodation support (52%); and
  • Intentions upon crossing back: short-term visit (62%); long-term stay (34%).


The research carried out between 1 January-31 March 2023, two-thirds of which happened at the border train station in Záhony upon departure to Ukraine, revealed that just 34% of the interviewees intended on staying in Ukraine upon return, while 62% of the refugees from Ukraine interviewed were planning to stay in Ukraine for only a short visit. Eighty-five percent of the respondents were women.

Of those stating that they were returning for a long-term stay, 53% indicated that they were returning and staying in Ukraine in order to reunite with family. Another 42% were returning because they considered that the situation in their place of origin had significantly improved, and 21% because they missed home. Other key reasons for returning are: helping family (19%), having found a job in Ukraine (19%) and lack of resources in the current location (16%). Only women indicated that they were returning to Ukraine because they had found employment there (23%).3 

Sixty-two per cent of the refugees from Ukraine interviewed, are planning to stay in Ukraine for only a short visit. Out of this sample, 67% stated that their main reason to go to Ukraine for a limited duration was to meet with family. Another 48% were returning to collect belongings left in Ukraine, and 19% to obtain or renew documents. This was followed by bringing supplies (18%) and helping family (8%).4 

The most important practical needs of these displaced persons upon crossing back to Ukraine are transportation (29%), information (28%), financial support (25%) and health services (22%).

Crossing Back

“The situation at the borders is very fluid. It is difficult to track movement and precisely map the intentions of Ukrainians flowing back over the border and going home either for short- or long-term stays. However, the Crossing to Ukraine Reports give us a better picture of the movements and mobility of displaced people returning to Ukraine, their motivations for making the difficult and dangerous journey, and their perceived needs when they return so that we can better address those needs – especially for the most vulnerable people.” - Dániel Bagaméri, Head of Office, IOM Hungary

IOM Hungary Offers Viable Solutions 
Based on the findings of the quarterly Crossing to Ukraine: Surveys with Refugees on Destinations, Length of Stay & Assistance Reports, IOM continuously identifies the changing needs of the beneficiary populations and adapts its programs to help alleviate some of the most difficult obstacles for both short- and long-term returnees. Since the beginning of the war, thousands of people in Hungary have received direct assistance from IOM, including food, non-food and hygiene items, vouchers, mental health and psychosocial support, and have received timely information to help prevent human trafficking and sexual exploitation and abuse. 

Refugees returning home to Ukraine are met at the Záhony train station by our IOM Hungary field teams on the Hungarian side of the border to help translate, answer questions and distribute information in Ukrainian, Hungarian, English and Russian. In vulnerable cases, in coordination with IOM Ukraine, information can be provided about services available in Ukraine. 

The Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) is a system used to track and monitor displacement and population mobility. Survey forms are utilized to capture data about the main displacement patterns for refugees of any nationality fleeing from Ukraine because of the war. The surveys are conducted in person. The demographic profiles of respondents, and if any, the group they are travelling with, are noted with an emphasis on their intentions relative to the intended final destination; prospects for permanent residence in the country of the survey/first reception; and their most pressing needs at the moment of the interview. 

This report is based on surveys collected in Hungary between 1 January and 31 March 2023 in various locations in Budapest and Záhony, as well as transit points (e.g., train and bus stations), the Budapest Helps Community Center (run by the Budapest Municipality and IOM), collective accommodations and food and non-food items distribution events.

The expansion of IOM’s DTM activities in the region was made possible with financial support from the Council of Europe Development Bank; German Federal Foreign Office; Government of Japan; Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation; Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and United States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

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1According to January 2023 data extracted from: Ukraine — Internal Displacement Report — General Population Survey Round 12 (16 - 23 January 2023) | Displacement Tracking Matrix (
2According to February 2023 data extracted from: Ukraine emergency | UNHCR
3respondents could indicate their top 3 reasons
4respondents could indicate their top 3 reasons

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