More Ukrainian refugees will arrive in Ireland in winter due to the destruction of electricity, water and food networks in their homeland by Russian missile strikes, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said.
“I expect we will see during the winter period. more and more Ukrainians are coming to Ireland, mainly because of what is happening there,” the enterprise minister said at a trade meeting in Brussels.
“[Russian president Vladimir] Putin has failed militarily, but now uses energy, food and water as weapons of war, which is reprehensible and we must oppose it.”
Mr Varadkar described the struggle to accommodate Ireland’s record number of refugees as a “very difficult situation” but said the government is looking into reusing office buildings, warehouses and tents to fill the gap. He also repeated a call to citizens with spare rooms or vacant buildings to make them available for use.
More than 1,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Ireland so far, a figure lower than the number arriving in countries closer to Ukraine, both in absolute terms and relative to the size of Ireland’s population. Poland and the Czech Republic have registered more than 1.4 million and 400,000 Ukrainian refugees respectively, about 3.7 percent of their population, compared to Ireland’s roughly 1.2 percent.
However, the levels are unprecedented for Ireland, and combined with the rising number of asylum seekers from elsewhere, the capacity of the reception centers has been exceeded.
When asked whether non-Ukrainian refugees receive a different level of treatment, Mr Varadkar said it was simply “a fact” that ordinary asylum seekers had a different legal status than the EU’s special protection status for Ukrainians.
“As the European Union, we have decided that any Ukrainian citizen can come to Ireland and benefit from temporary protection. People arriving in Ireland as asylum seekers fall into a different category. They do not have the same legal status. And that’s just a fact,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said his department issues 40,000 work permits and visas each year to people coming to Ireland for work, and that this was the right route for people moving for economic reasons.
“Ireland is not a difficult country to enter in that regard, and as you know many have had their asylum applications rejected because they are actually economic migrants who have not gone about it the right way, which is to apply for a work permit or work visa, ‘he said.