Supporting war refugees entering state systems has top priority

A 15-day-old baby and a 39-week pregnant woman are among Ukrainians who have taken refuge in Ireland since the start of the devastating war that has forced them to flee.

He estimates that 7,000 to 8,000 people who have arrived here are “predominantly women and children” and the majority “do not require financial assistance at this time”.

Helping these newcomers into the state system is the top priority at two dedicated hubs that opened yesterday, one at Cork Street, Dublin 8 and the other at Hanover Quay in Cork City. A third center for Ukrainian refugees will open in Limerick next week.

There they receive a letter from the Ministry of Justice allowing them to live here for up to a year, a PPS number for access to government services and, if necessary, financial support of up to 220 euros.

At the Dublin center, Fiona Penollar, deputy secretary for the Department for Social Protection, said the centers were set up to help those who did not come into the country via Dublin Airport – where services already exist – but instead came into the country via Shannon Airport entered and seaports.

In the last 10 days they have issued around 6,500 PPS numbers.

“This is about allowing people who have fled and left it all behind to come to a place of sanctuary and get into the system in a way that we can hug them and support them,” she said.

The newcomers were “shocked,” she added, and many reacted with overwhelming relief when they were given their PPS number and made aware they were now “in the system.”

Others show no reaction because they are still processing what happened to them.

“It’s a very, very hard thing for her,” Ms Penollar said.

One of the newcomers seeking help at the turnstile yesterday was Oksana Ampilogova, who fled Kyiv with her 10-year-old son. Her husband stayed to support the Ukrainian army while her elderly mother, who had suffered a stroke, was too frail to travel.

She told RTÉ News she felt like she was living in “parallel realities”.

“It’s a bit hard to see people so happy and laughing here. It’s like a parallel reality that’s extremely difficult to handle because I understand that people here should be happy because they’re home and they’re fine, they should be happy,” she said.

“But you can’t get used to it because the reality in your head is different and all the memories you have are different. I don’t know when and how we can be happy again. We will see. We’ll adapt, we’ll handle it somehow, but it will definitely take time.”

Until recently the Dublin hub had been a job seeker’s center which was in the process of being refurbished. There are signs on the walls with routing slips and warnings that children are not allowed to walk. The building is not yet what it should be, Ms Penollar said.

“I have to say, when I first saw the center, I was like, ‘Oh God.’ It’s not nice. Joanna, who runs it, wanted to get the brush out Tuesday night.

“The wrong signs are there and it’s not there yet – but it will be. We will continue to improve it and make it run better and more efficiently, but what we achieve right away is really big and makes a difference.”

People in the department are doing their utmost to make sure it works, she said, adding that she had to “send staff home at quarter to three” that morning at Dublin Airport.

“It might sound like it’s just bureaucracy and all we do is write letters or whatever, but knowing that people have access to government now is what’s really important.

“And we can see that having a really positive impact. That’s why people 100 percent go beyond that.”

The experience of providing PUP payments during the pandemic proved invaluable as the department again had to react immediately to respond to another rapidly evolving situation.

“We’ve had so many positives that we really want to build on that to provide the best customer service,” said Ms. Penollar. “We say the position is, ‘We’re going to do it. Well, how do we do that?”, while the stereotypical impression might be that we say, “Can we even do that?”.

“Everyone has seen the pictures from Ukraine and it’s the natural human reaction to want to help and to do the best we can.

“Coming from such a terrible situation, what is happening now is a very inspiring result. It reacts very spontaneously, but we want to try to refine and improve it.” Supporting war refugees entering state systems has top priority

Fry Electronics Team

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