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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Ireland must ‘slow the flow’ of refugees from Ukraine and elsewhere – Taoiseach

Ireland “needs to slow the flow” of Ukrainian refugees and reform its offering to others seeking asylum, the Taoiseach has said.

Speaking on Sunday afternoon, Leo Varadkar said that Ireland’s offering to incoming Ukrainian and other refugees would have to change because it was not feasible to continue to take in people with no limits.

“Migration is a good thing for Ireland,” he told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics.

He said economic migration numbers are already controlled by work permits and visas.

“When it comes to irregular migration, that’s people coming from Ukraine or people seeking international protection, I think one of the things we have to do when we have to be honest with each other about this, is to make sure that what we offer — in terms of accommodation, in terms of work, in terms of money — is similar to what’s offered in other EU countries.

He said “even countries with hard-right governments and anti-immigration governments” haven’t stopped irregular migration, but that airport border controls needed to be improved.

“We’re doing that. I got off a flight from Helsinki two weeks ago and it was great to see people not getting the opportunity to destroy documents.”

However, he added, the country needed to “align with” what is provided by other countries due to the numbers coming from other EU countries and the UK. 

“There are a lot of people who may have left their home country a number of years ago or a number of months ago, maybe they weren’t safe in those countries, but they actually have spent months or even years in the UK or France before coming here. That’s what’s called secondary movements. You shouldn’t be encouraging them.”

72.1% rise in arrivals from Ukraine

He was speaking as the European Commission published statistics showing that the rate of increase of Ukrainians arriving in Ireland over the past year was 10 times higher than the average increase in numbers fleeing to the EU from the war in Ukraine over the same period.

There has been a 72.1% increase in the number of Ukrainians seeking international protection in the Republic in the 12 months to the end of September 2023.

Over the same timeframe, the number of Ukrainian citizens seeking refuge across the EU rose by just 7.2%.

It is the second-highest rate of increase among the 27 EU member states over the past year after Romania where the number of refugees from Ukraine has effectively doubled to around 140,000.

Over the same period, the number of Ukrainian refugees has dropped in six countries including Poland where they have fallen back by over 30% with over 400,000 availing of temporary protection.

However, numbers fleeing the war in Ukraine are up 20% or more in all other EU member states apart from Estonia.

Third highest net increase in arrivals

Figures show the number of Ukrainians who have been granted temporary protection in Ireland stood at 53,830 in September 2022.

That figure increased by almost 40,000 in the space of 12 months to 93,050.

When citizens of other non-EU countries who fled the Russian invasion of Ukraine are included, the figure rises to 94,085.

According to the latest monthly figures, Ireland has the third highest net increase in new arrivals of people seeking international protection from the war in Ukraine in absolute terms within the EU in September.

Highest rise in new arrivals in EU

Official statistics show that there was a net increase of 2,875 in individuals from Ukraine granted temporary protection status in the Republic in September. This represents a 3.2% increase on the previous month.

It was also the largest monthly percentage increase recorded in any EU member state where overall numbers rose by 0.8% on average.

Only Germany and the Netherlands had larger net increases in new temporary asylum seekers from Ukraine in net absolute terms with 19,205 and 3,685 respectively in September.

In the same month, five EU member states — the Czech Republic, France, Poland, Slovenia, and Luxembourg — recorded a decrease in the overall number of people from Ukraine under temporary protection.

The latest figures show almost 4.2m individuals fleeing Ukraine have temporary protection status in one of the EU’s 27 member states with Germany accounting for over 28% of the total with almost 1.2m, followed by Poland with almost 959,000, and the Czech Republic with around 358,000.

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