As the UK’s refugee scheme gets off to a sluggish start, Ireland says it’s now taken in a total of 2,123 Ukrainian refugees since dropping visa requirements immediately after the Russian invasion.
The true figure may be higher, as Ireland’s Department of Justice only maintains data for Dublin Airport, and doesn’t count any Ukrainians arriving at other ports of entry.
Hanna Kozlovska is one of the 2,123.
She fled Kyiv with her three children Ivan (9), Ehor (7) and Liza (4).
Heading west, she says they lived in their car for four days, before getting across the Polish border.
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From there, they flew to Ireland where an old friend, Pavlo Iarovyi, has lived with his wife for years, working in Ireland’s burgeoning software sector.
“We came to Ireland only because we have close friends here who provided their house to stay for us,” Hanna told Sky News from Pavlo’s comfortable home in the west Dublin suburb of Adamstown.
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‘We drove into nowhere’
Choking back tears, she said: “When the shootings started we didn’t know what to do. We immediately packed and drove into ‘nowhere’.”
Although under Ukraine’s martial law, all men aged 18-60 must stay in the country, Hanna’s husband Andriy is allowed to leave, as he is a father of three children, which serves as an exemption.
He is currently in Poland helping another family but will fly to Dublin soon, a beneficiary of Ireland’s scrapping of visa requirements.
Ireland could host up to 100,000 Ukrainians
Ireland, along with the other EU member states, has brought forward temporary protection measures allowing Ukrainians to enter visa-free, and to stay for up to three years.
The Irish government has said it could eventually host up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, something described by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheal Martin as “an enormous challenge, the scale of which we’ve never dealt with before”.
Hanna said that she’s grateful to her host nation.
“I think at the moment the [Irish] government is doing a lot for helping Ukrainians, I really like how we were welcomed here,” she said.
‘Everything is a disaster’ in Ukraine
At the capital’s airport, Sky News saw several Ukrainian families reunited at the arrivals hall in Terminal 1 after a Ryanair flight touched down from Rzeszow, a Polish city not far from the Ukrainian border.
A tearful Liubov Vyniarksa was greeted by her brother Vasyl Eliyashevskyy, who lives and works in County Waterford.
“They hope to come back to home”, he said. “But at the moment, you know, everything is a disaster there.”
Gratitude for their escape is mixed with a yearning to return to Ukraine at the earliest for many of the new arrivals.
Asked if her future lies in Ireland or Ukraine, Hanna Kozlovska is abrupt and adamant.
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“At the moment, I’m dreaming about going home.”
Until it is safe to do so, however, her family knows that in Ireland, they have a safe and comfortable refuge from the horrors of the conflict in their homeland.