Ireland could have taken in 40,000 Ukrainian refugees by the end of next month and the number will continue to rise as the war rages on, Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney has said.
He spoke as he outlined the government’s continued response, both as a nation and as part of the EU, to the humanitarian crisis since the Russian invasion Ukraine a month before.
“We have seen almost four million refugees (leaving Ukraine) so far. We plan that up to ten million refugees will potentially come to the EU. And of course Ireland must play its part in this effort and it will,” he said.
“So far almost 11,000 Ukrainian refugees have come to Ireland, I suspect there will be around 20,000 by the end of this month.
“By the end of next month the number will likely be 40,000 and continue to rise as this war rages on,” he said.
“Our position on this is very clear,” he continued.
“Humanitarian aid must come first. And we believe it is appropriate for Ireland to grant visa-free access to as many Ukrainians fleeing the war as necessary.
“And the European Union decided together how we would approach this together, which basically consists of opening the doors of the EU to take in mostly women and children and the elderly who are facing war and brutality in their own country before the flee Russian aggression.”
Earlier Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said Ireland offers Ukrainians more refuge than refugees from other countries because they are in the European neighbourhood.
Mr Varadkar said one of the reasons Russia invaded Ukraine was because they wanted to join the EU.
“I think when something happens in your neighborhood, in your community, or on your estate, it’s only natural that you want to respond in a way you might not if something happened in another part of the world.
“I think it’s also important to keep the legal situation in mind, the situation is that Ukrainians enjoy temporary protection in the European Union and come here legally,” he said
“Many of the people who seek asylum in Ireland do not come here legally and are never granted refugee status because they are not refugees. And that’s why I know [it’s not] politically correct to say that, but it is actually correct and legally correct,” he added.
Mr Varadkar also warned that there will not be dedicated housing for everyone fleeing Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue said Ireland was preparing to potentially take in up to 200,000 refugees from Ukraine as the number of refugees has risen dramatically since the Russian invasion began.
“They will not be cared for in open-door or self-catering shelters,” Mr Varadkar said.
“There are analyzes I hear from some people that suddenly we will find 40,000 or 50,000 houses for Ukrainian refugees. That will not happen. You wish that were possible. That’s not possible,” he said.
Asked about Ireland’s defense role in the context of international security and security in Europe today, Minister Coveney said the complacency of many people that the continent of Europe is a continent of peace and has no realistic threats to undermine this peace project has now evaporated , and every country in the European Union is now focused on security and defense issues and how the European Union can work together collectively to address security and defense issues.
“Just this week we agreed on the so-called Strategic Compass, which has been discussed for two and a half years. Ireland was indeed very involved in shaping the final document. It is consistent with our neutrality and military non-alignment, but it is also realistic in terms of how countries need to work together, how they need to be interoperable on the issues we are partners on, and of course how the EU will fund both and manage security and defense issues in the future to ensure our citizens are safe and our sovereignty is protected,” he said.
“No one is forcing us to do anything. Decisions to intervene in common defense and security issues are decisions that require unanimity. So Ireland can block things if we want. So I don’t see this as undermining neutrality at all. But what it does is reflect new realities in the world and in Europe, with which Ireland needs to be realistic and honest with ourselves and with our people,” he added.
Asked if it would be a red line if Russia used chemical or biological weapons and what the international response might be, Minister Coveney said he could not say.
“The use of chemical weapons is a red line. How we would react to the use of chemical weapons, I honestly can’t say, but I think that, just like the threat of a nuclear accident related to this conflict, a whole set of red flags has been set off internationally,” he said.
“I think using chemical weapons would also cross a red line. How the international community would react, how NATO would react, how the EU would react remains to be seen, but it certainly would not be without a meaningful response from the international community.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/coveney-ireland-could-have-40000-ukrainian-refugees-by-the-end-of-next-month-41478628.html Coveney: Ireland could have 40,000 Ukrainian refugees by the end of next month