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Niall O'Connor/The Journal

Gardaí link with German authorities to develop specialist war crime questionnaire for Ukrainian refugees

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee spoke at the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors conference in Killarney today.

UKRAINIAN REFUGEES WILL be asked by Irish authorities to document their war experiences to help war crime investigations. 

The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, speaking at the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) conference in Killarney, said that they had been liaising with German officials to develop the strategy in how to deal with the witness statements of refugees. 

The Minister explained that a specialist questionnaire had been developed and that this will be used to harvest the experiences of people from Ukraine who say they experienced Russian war crimes. 

More than 21,000 refugees have arrived in Ireland since the start of the war. 

“I’m absolutely committed to and support any effort that we can to make sure that those who are responsible for the absolute atrocities that we’ve seen in recent weeks [are] held responsible,” said McEntee. “This is an issue that we discussed in the Justice Committee only a few weeks ago, where a member from the ICC [International Criminal Court, which prosecutes war crimes] spoke to us.”

She added:

“Speaking to the Garda Commissioner [Drew Harris] and his team recently, they were engaged with our colleagues in Germany, where they have already set out a template for people to be able to write out their experiences and what they have seen and what they have gone through. And we’re trying to adapt that and change that, so we can use it here.”

The Minister said that the initial priority was to house the refugees but that the information and witness statements would be gathered and fed back to the ICC.

McEntee explained that Ireland had joined with other countries in pooling information to deal with war criminals. 

“We also, only in recent weeks, agreed a specific platform which allows all European countries to engage with each other to share information. And specifically this issue is something that had been raised in need of a response.”

Child protection

McEntee said that there are an estimated 6,000 unaccompanied children in Europe who have fled without their families. She said there are specialist measures in place at Irish points of entry to help these victims of the war. 

“On the child protection piece, every person that comes into the country – so be it at airports or ports, there are members of Tusla there and available to work with them to support in particular unaccompanied minors or vulnerable people.

“Obviously, where contact can be made with family members or next of kin, that’s been done.

Warehouses and other vacant properties might also be used to house people arriving here from Ukraine in the coming days she said. 

There will be a national ‘call for buildings’ to identify empty units for emergency accommodation and potentially as permanent housing in the long term. 

The Defence Forces began constructing a large tent village for Ukrainian refugees in Gormanston Camp at the end of last month, but it was hoped that it would be used only as a last resort.

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