The most recent statistics from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) show that Ireland has the highest per capita number of Ukrainian refuges outside of the frontline countries in Eastern Europe such as Poland and the Baltic States – and higher numbers in absolute terms than Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
The UNCHR statistics, published on August 1 show that a total of 90,615 people have arrived in the Irish state since the beginning of the war in March 2022, and that the same number have applied for asylum, temporary protection or other protection systems.
90,615 arrivals in this small island amounts to 18 Ukrainian refugees per 1,000 of the Irish population.
That compares to 13 per 1,000 in Germany, and the per capita figure for the Irish state is at least twice as high compared to every other western European state other than Germany. Finland, Luxembourg and Norway, all of which are between 9 and 11 per 1,000.
Even in terms of the actual number of refugees, the Irish state has not only taken more in per capita terms than almost every other western state, but has taken more in absolute numbers than most of those, including France – 70,570 (1 per 1,000). If a frontline state like Romania had taken in the same per capita number of Ukrainians as Ireland they would have 360,000 refugees as opposed to the 138,825 documented by the UNHCR.
Interestingly, there had been over 2,400,000 border crossings between Ukraine and Romania. While nobody expects that Romania ought to take in all of those fleeing the war, they might surely be expected to accommodate the same proportions as this country. Especially given that tens of thousands of people living here, many of them on social welfare and in public housing, claim to be Romanian nationals.
It is clear then that many Ukrainians are not just desperately fleeing war but are deciding what countries to go to based on how well looked after they will be.
The fact that Ireland is probably the single most generous in terms of public provision is the reason why so many people not only have come here for reasons of safety, but in many cases have decided to stay here. Ad indeed, they are being encouraged to by both the state, employers and NGOs.
As the statistics from September 2022 illustrate, the numbers arriving here have also grown at a faster rate than the other western European states, including Germany. The UNHCR statistics also emphasise the high rate at which Ukrainians continue to arrive into the Irish state. The official figure at the beginning of June was 84,613. That would mean that a further 5,000 had arrived to claim asylum during the month of July.
Given that the official estimate of the numbers of Ukrainians here by the end of the year, made in February, was 137,000, that figure is likely to be reached if the current rate of arrivals continues. As our reporting on the contacts between the IHREC and Minister Roderic O’Gorman’s office showed, the NGO sector is clearly enthusiastic about all of this and is adamant that the state take no measures that would restrict the numbers of people coming to Ireland, whether from Ukraine or anywhere else.
We also referred some time back to “blue sky thinking” within the state departments in the months that followed the initial influx of Ukrainian refugees that included the possibility of creating whole new cities populated by people from the Ukraine. The same public servants were then speculating about the prospects, and consequences, of allowing Ukrainian refugees to vote in Irish elections.
That has now entered the mainstream of course, and the NGOs and significant parts of the political establishment – particularly those parties who believe that their racially focused platforms might attract disproportionate votes from immigrants – are pushing for this to be extended to anyone who lands up on Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore even before they have been granted permission to stay.
It would be surely ironic then if the deracinated carpet baggers of a certain former nationalist party which goes on about “healing the wounds” of centuries of ethnic and religiously based segregation was to oversee the replication of new ethnic enclaves here. To expect them to appreciate that irony would, however, require considerable faith in their ability to jettison their Clock Orange capacity for historical memory erasure.
Other western European states and even states much closer to Ukraine have clearly set unstated limits to the numbers of refugees which they believe they are capable of taking in, or which they believe is compatible with the wishes and needs of their own citizens. This state continues to naively speak in terms of their being “no limits.” And not just on genuine asylum seekers from Ukraine.
In relation to Ukraine, it is apparent that considerable parts of that country have returned to some sort of normality. Boosted of course by the massive amounts of aid which are being sent, to which the Irish people also contribute. At a certain point the war will end, and efforts ought to be concentrated now on how that might come about.
The host nations of Ukrainian refugees might also start to consider in what circumstances and at what stage the almost six million refugees might start to plan to return home, rather than encourage the belief that that country will forever be bereft of such large numbers of its own people.