Spare room brigade: Ireland offers accommodation for 12,000 Ukrainian refugees

Irish response is in contrast to problems with Ukrainians finding sanctuary in UK

People in Dublin protest against the Russian war in Ukraine. PA

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Ireland is opening its arms, and spare rooms, to Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.

More than 12,000 pledges of accommodation have been made by Irish people to refugees fleeing Ukraine, the Irish Red Cross has said.

It comes days after the Government announced plans to allow Irish people to register available accommodation.

Around 75 per cent of offers made in the last four days are for shared accommodation where people have a room to spare.

Donations from members of the public have reached 14 million euro (£11.7 million).

Around 2,500 Ukrainian refugees have arrived to Ireland in recent weeks.

Some 2,149 offers have been made in Dublin, 1,327 in Cork, 663 in Galway and 586 in Meath.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said the Government may consider having Irish officials based at Polish airports to facilitate people fleeing the war.

It comes after Independent TD Cathal Berry called for a small team of diplomats to be stationed at Rzeszow and Krakow airports to deal with people travelling to Ireland.

“We shouldn’t be sitting passively in Dublin Airport waiting for refugees to arrive, we should be proactively getting information and passing it on,” Mr Berry said.

Mr Berry raised the possibility of transporting people and babies injured in Ukraine after a bomb strike gutted a maternity hospital in Mariupol.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys during a press briefing at Dublin Airport where a new processing facility for Ukrainian refugees has been set up. PA

He said there is capacity in Ireland’s neonatal intensive care units.

“There is a national neonatal transport programme available, where the hospitals in Dublin link up with the Air Corps to transfer very, very critically ill children from abroad,” he added.

He also said Ukrainian teachers who travel to Ireland could be recruited to teach Ukrainian children.

Mr Ryan also said he expects to see a lot of lone parents travelling to Ireland, adding that they too will be provided with support.

In neighbouring United Kingdom, controversy has raged over the government's efforts to help Ukrainians.

Home Secretary Priti Patel on Thursday promised a streamlined online visa application system for Ukrainians seeking to flee the war with Russia in response to criticism of her approach to the crisis.

She told MPs the changes will come in from Tuesday following assurances from the security services that the UK can still be protected from Russian efforts to infiltrate the country by posing as Ukrainian refugees.

The Home Office has come under pressure from opposition and Tory MPs – as well as the Ukrainian government – to simplify the system which allows family members of people settled in the UK to join their relatives.

Ms Patel said: “From Tuesday, I can announce that Ukrainians with passports will no longer need to go to a visa application centre to give their biometrics before they come to the UK.

“Instead, once their application has been considered and appropriate checks completed, they will receive direct notification that they’re eligible for the scheme and can come to the UK.

“In short, Ukrainians with passports will be able to get permission to come here fully online from wherever they are and will be able to give their biometrics once in Britain.

“This will mean that visa application centres across Europe can focus their efforts on helping Ukrainians without passports.”

More than two million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.

While the European Union allows visa-free travel for Ukrainians fleeing the fighting, the UK insisted they are necessary to guarantee security.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed the need for continued checks.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, whose urgent question resulted in Ms Patel’s appearance in the Commons, said the Government’s approach had been “shameful”.

The current visa route is restricted to family members of people settled in the UK.

Another promised route, allowing individuals and companies to sponsor Ukrainians to come to the UK, has yet to be established.

Ms Cooper said: “Is this still just being restricted to those with family? Are they still going to have to fill in multiple online forms, or would she now say that all those who want to come to the UK who have fled the fighting in Ukraine can now come here without having to fill in loads of online forms or jump through a whole load of hoops?

“This has just been shameful… making vulnerable people push from pillar to post in their hour of need. Week after week, we have seen this happen.

“It is deeply wrong to leave people in this terrible state. Our country is better than this. If she can’t get this sorted out, frankly she should hand the job over to somebody else who can.”

Figures from Downing Street on Wednesday showed Britain had granted 957 visas.

The Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, called for an end to the “red tape” restricting refugees from seeking sanctuary in Britain.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said plans were under way in his department to accept “100,000 children… into our schools”.

Updated: March 10, 2022, 4:00 PM
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