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03rd Mar 2022

One million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded last week

Ellen Fitzpatrick

143 have come to Ireland.

One million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded, only a week after fighting began according to the UN refugee agency.

This is the fastest move of refugees the world has seen this century, with the UNHCR saying that more than two per cent of the Ukrainian population had moved in under a week.

The news comes as Russian forces revealed they have sieged two strategic Ukrainian ports and continue to bombard the second biggest city in Ukraine, with soldiers seeming to be stalled outside the capital of Kyiv.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said on Tuesday that 143 Ukrainians have now taken refuge in Ireland since a visa requirement was waived last Thursday, with the number rising to 269 since yesterday.

While many have travelled here, there are many that are already residents in Ireland who “have travelled back to the State for reasons other than escaping the conflict in Ukraine”.

The minister told the Dáil that the EU is poised to trigger a previously unused measure to coordinate a mass influx of refugees.

She added that the EU is “likely” to “activate the Temporary Protection Directive” to respond to the influx of refugees, a measure she says has not been used before but would simplify the process.

The Department of Justice has begun working on the directive and it would provide an alternative to seeking international protection.

This would provide those coming here a year’s “temporary residency” and that could be later extended to three years.

It would provide “an immediate right to access of the labour market, housing, social welfare, healthcare, education, training and other supports”.

The Government’s International Protection Accommodation Service will also find accommodation for Ukrainian refugees coming to Ireland, while some will be initially housed in hotel accommodation.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said that Ukrainians coming into Ireland will get a special refugee status that will allow them to live and work here as EU citizens despite the country not having EU status.