Irish families ‘will have to open their homes to Ukrainian refugees’

Fianna Fail senator Timmy Dooley made the call after travelling to the Ukrainian city of Lviv.

07 March 2022

Irish families will have to play their part and open their homes to refugees fleeing Ukraine, Timmy Dooley has said following a brief visit to the war-torn country.

The Fianna Fail senator and MEP Billy Kelleher travelled to the Ukrainian city of Lviv for talks with political leaders.

Mr Dooley, the vice president of the EU Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (Alde), travelled 100 kilometres from the Polish border into Ukraine on Sunday.

It is understood they are the first Irish politicians to visit the country since the Russian invasion.

The United Nations announced over the weekend that more than 1.5 million people have fled Ukraine.

Mr Dooley said there will be much greater numbers fleeing the country over the coming weeks, and that appeals will have to go out to families across Europe, including Ireland, to open their homes.

“I have to say the response that I have gotten from people that have contacted me in the last week, there is a huge willingness by the Irish people to open up their homes and assist these people who are fleeing really a terrible situation,” he told RTE.

Mr Dooley said he was invited by the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s Servant Of The People’s party to visit the country after travelling to the border in Poland.

“What we saw on the other side of the border was a 20km tailback of cars. At one particular point, people standing in a line of about 5km,” Mr Dooley added.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
People protest against the Russian war in Ukraine in Dublin city centre (Niall Carson/PA)

“I would say there were people there for probably two days.

“It’s an appalling situation when you consider the low temperatures at night, recognising that they’re vulnerable people, young families, an absence of men who are back on the warfront, elderly people being pushed on wheelchairs, people with physical disabilities being pushed on wheelchairs.”

Mr Dooley said that the processing times of Ukrainian refugees needed to be speeded up at the border.

“It really is a humanitarian crisis on the other side. I think from a European perspective, there will have to be a more coordinated effort to get people across the border,” he added.

“There’s technically an open border in that Ukrainian people are allowed free access to Europe. But the processing on the border leaves a lot to be desired at the moment.

“We have to try and do something to to make that easier for those that are fleeing the bombs of Russia.”

The Fianna Fail senator said he spoke to Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk last week.

“Our initial mission was to go to the border but we were invited then to travel to Lviv, which is about 100km east of the Polish border.

“They wanted us to see the situation first hand and we certainly did that. We’ll be reporting back to our respective parties across Europe and to those that need to know what we have seen, and the message that we have been given which is to provide greater assistance to the refugees who are finding it difficult to cross the border.”

Mr Dooley defended his decision to cross the border into Ukraine against official advice from the Irish Government.

“I accept and recognise that. But I think in the face of such human suffering, it was a calculated risk from our perspective,” he added.

“We had sought the advice of those that invited us and their best advice was that it was safe to travel to Lviv, which was about 100km on the other side of the border and was about 600 miles from where there was any shelling activity.

“We are preparing a report which will go to the Alde number parties.

“We’ll be passing that message back, which is that at European level, they’re very thankful for what’s being done to date, but the effort will have to be stepped up, it will have to be easier for those that are fleeing the battlefields.

“It will have to be easier for them to cross the border.

“Obviously then we will have have work to do when the refugees ultimately get to our respective countries.

“Poland is doing well at the moment, managing the numbers that are there.”

It comes as Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney travels to New York for a two-day visit.

He is to take part in a Council of Foreign Relations discussion on Europe’s response to the events in Ukraine.

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