Politics

A third of the 2,500 Ukrainian refugees now in Ireland are children – McEntee


More than 2,500 Ukrainian refugees have now arrived in Ireland, a third of them children, the Minster for Justice Helen McEntee has said.

Ms McEntee also said Ireland will be “vigilant” in relation to who is coming into the country but the focus will be on welcoming those fleeing the war.

She said there will be no change to the Common Travel Area with the UK in the wake of reported security concerns in Britain over Ireland’s open-door policy.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday of an unnamed British government source complaining about Ireland’s move to give shelter to possibly 100,000 refugees, while the number in Britain remains in the low hundreds.

It was claimed that the situation presented a security risk to the UK.

Ms McEntee said her Department engages regularly with their British counterparts and she spoke to Home Secretary Priti Patel last week and there is “constant co-operation”.

She said it is important that security checks are in place and information is shared.

“We need to be vigilant at all times.

“We need to make sure that everybody coming into this country is who they say they are but above all our responses to make sure that those who are fleeing Ukraine, that they are welcomed, that they’re given the support and the help that they need.

“And that is our first and foremost concern.”

She said the focus of her discussion with Ms Patel was agreeing to stay in contact if issues arise “security or otherwise”. Ms McEntee said the CTA is “not going to change”.

She said she is “very confident and happy” with the conversations she has had with Ms Patel and the mechanisms that have been put in place.

Supports

Ukrainian refugees arriving in Ireland fill out a one-page form to get temporary protection and access to social protection supports.

Ms McEntee and Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys met some of the arrivals at Dublin Airport on Wednesday.

Ms Humphreys said the refugees they met came from “extremely difficult situations”, that they are “so relieved to be here” but concerned because they have left husbands and fathers in Ukraine.

“We want to make sure that when they arrive here, they get all the support that they can,” she said.

Two-thirds of the Ukrainians arriving in Ireland are female and about a third have sought help with accommodation and are being housed in hotels.

Ms McEntee said it is hard to know how many refugees will ultimately come to Ireland but she expected the arrivals to continue for months.

The Government has said it is not going to put a cap on the number of refugees Ireland will accept and Ms McEntee said that “hasn’t changed irrespective of the fact that the numbers seem to be increasing on a daily basis”.

All arrivals are getting PPS numbers to access State supports and Ms Humphreys said they will be “treated the same as Irish citizens”.

Initially they are being placed on the Supplementary Welfare Allowance before being transitioned to the social protection payments most suited to their circumstances.

The allowance is payable at rates of up to €206 per week with increases for adult and child dependents.

Ukrainian refugees will get extra supports if they have children including child benefit payments.

The payments will be accessed through post offices.

Ms Humphreys said that some may wish to work and they will be assisted in this.

She said: “Some very highly skilled people are coming into this country. We have a lot of vacancies at the minute. So we want to help them in every single way that we can.”

On Tuesday Cabinet was briefed on the risk of cyberattacks.

Ms McEntee said the National Cyber Security Centre is constantly reviewing any types of threats.

“They have been identified initially as low risk but obviously that needs to be kept under constant review.”

She said there is also contact with the public and private sectors including financial institutions and services such as water, electricity and gas to update them on actions they need to be taken.




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