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Taoiseach says the scale of refugees arriving in Ireland could require volunteers from civil society to step up to help.

Scenario planning underway for Ireland to accommodate thousands of refugees from Ukraine

The Taoiseach said it is ‘very possible’ that Ireland could be asked to take in numbers higher than 20,000.

TOP CIVIL SERVANTS met today to begin “scenario planning” for the arrival of thousands of Ukrainian refugees to Ireland, the Taoiseach has confirmed. 

It was reported yesterday that Ireland could be asked to take in more than 20,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine, with the Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney stating that Irish people may be asked to open up their homes to people. 

However, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said today that the government does not have immediate plans to call on Irish families to host Ukrainian refugees, stating “it is early days yet”. 

The Taoiseach confirmed this afternoon that it is “hard to be definitive” about the numbers of refugees that Ireland may have to accomodate, but said it is “very possible” it could be multiples of the 20,000 figure. 

He said 836,000 refugees have fled according to United Nations, with half that number going to Poland.

“We will play our part,” he said, adding that there was a meeting today between all Secretary Generals of government departments to work out how we respond.

“I think it would have to be a ‘people of Ireland’ response as well as the government,” he said, adding “it will will be very challenging”.

He said the government is working through with government departments the “logistics around what’s available in terms of endeavouring to secure accommodation”. 


“But it will be at a scale and at a level that we will require volunteers and people in civil society to work with us to help people of Ukraine who may come here,” he said. 

When asked if Irish people will be asked to house refugees from Ukraine, Martin said “everything depends on the scale of what happens”.

“So far, we haven’t seen huge numbers coming in and yet everything depends on the numbers that come in, in terms of the response. But certainly there are families here already, Ukrainian families, there are people here who want to help. But predominantly, the state will have to work to procure accommodation, and to structure it as best we can,” he added. 

The Taoiseach said the government is exploring a whole range of options, such as  accommodating people in hotels, but he said the system is already under pressure from existing migratory flows from other areas of conflict. 

He said: 

This is the largest war on the continent of Europe since World War Two. I’m not sure that people yet have fully grasped the enormity of what is happening, what potentially can happen in terms of the repercussions for the continent of Europe. There will be migration impact, there will be an economic impact in terms of inflation. 

“We’ve got to be ready for that as a country, in terms of the more general consequences, migration being one, and the need to be in a position to accommodate a lot of people, should they wish to come to Ireland,” he said. The Taoiseach added that it would not be fair for other EU countries to have to deal with the entire burden of the migration issue.”

EU meeting of ministers 

It is understood that the numbers of refugees that Ireland will be asked to accommodate will become more clear tomorrow after Justice Minister Helen McEntee attends a meeting with other EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers in Brussels.  

It is likely that the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive will be activated at that meeting which is designed to provide a coordinated response to a mass influx of displaced persons and to standardise the giving of temporary protection across EU member states, as well as ensuring that all member States play their part. 

McEntee told the Dáil on Tuesday that this measure has not previously been used by the EU but said “the initial view is this might be the right mechanism to help those leaving Ukraine”.

She said the Government is clear that Ireland will play is part in assisting Ukraine and its people, and has a clear record of helping those in need.

McEntee said in recent months, Ireland has opened the Afghan Admission Programme to help family members of the Afghan community here from Afghanistan. This programme was the only one of its kind in Europe, she pointed out.

Ireland has also offered refugee protection to over 500 Afghan nationals, as well as meeting ongoing commitments in relation to Syrian refugees.  

While she said it is not possible at this point to be precise about numbers of Ukrainian people who will come here under this Directive, it is likely to be significant.

Food shortages 

The Taoiseach was also asked today about the possibility of food shortages due to the conflict. He said Ireland doesn’t import a whole lot of food from Russia, “so it’s very minor amounts”

In terms of grain, it is a huge export for Russia to the wider world, and to Europe, in particular.

“And so that will, in time, find its way through in terms of food, inflation and shortages, and so forth.

“Ireland, from a food perspective, is strong and secure. But inflation is a bigger question across Europe. And there’s no doubt that this war will add to the inflationary cycle that we’ve already experienced as a result of a pandemic. And that’s going to be problematic.

He said the European Commission is working on a pape around energy prices that he hopes will ready within the next 10 days.

“We have to work with the European Commission and others as to how we deal with this energy issue. Because a lot can happen over the next number of weeks.

“Europe and United States have imposed the toughest of economic sanctions on Russia. There may very well be responses to that in the energy world and in the food world,” he said. 

Earlier today, the Taoiseach rejected further calls for the Russian ambassador to Ireland to be expelled. He raised the importance of keeping a channel to Russia amid the uncertainty of the weeks to come.

He also rejected the suggestion by Sinn Fein that a charge d’affaires could be appointed to keep some diplomatic link to Russia.

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