Currents News Staff
This 15th century castle on Ireland’s West Coast is about as far from Ukraine as you can get in Europe. But for a group of Ukrainian families fleeing the war, it’s now home.
Maria Nazarchuk fled from Ukraine with her family.
“It’s very amazing living in the castle,” Maria said. “I’m never dream about what I can live in a castle in the future. But I live, it is my two boys with my family.”
The owner Barry Haughian didn’t have to think long about traveling to Poland to offer up his castle to refugees.
“We decided that we had to do something and with no real plan and we were very nervous and thinking, okay, how do we do this?” Barry said. “And it’s pretty simple. You get your credit card out, you book a flight and you fly to Poland.”
Per capita, the country of five million people has taken in more Ukrainian refugees than many of its neighbors in western Europe. The government says more than 27,000 have arrived so far.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s closest neighbor, the United Kingdom has had roughly the same number of refugees arrive, despite having a population more than 13 times the size.
But not all refugees in Ireland have received the royal treatment. The government has warned that resources are stretched.
“Look, it’s not all ideal,” said Roderic O’Gorman the Irish Minister of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. “It’s not all the kind of the gold standard accommodation that we’d like. But you know, this is a crisis situation. Most people are in hotels, some people are in more basic accommodation. And yes, it is getting more difficult, particularly as it’s clear now that this war isn’t going to end anytime soon.”
Authorities have set up emergency camp beds in an arena in Cork. They also plan to repurpose student halls, holiday homes and former convents. Former asylum seeker Lucky Khambule, originally from South Africa ,shared a room in a government run facility for years living in limbo until his papers were processed.
He now campaigns for better conditions for all asylum seekers.
“It shows that all along,” Lucky said, “we were right to say that the government is capable of treating us better.”
Unlike other asylum seekers, Ukrainian refugees were immediately granted the right to work and receive welfare payments in Ireland. A lack of red tape also enabled thousands of Ukrainian children to be enrolled quickly in Irish schools.
“They had everything sorted for these guys inside two hours,” Barry said. “It was really the way I’ve described…It was quite incredible. It makes you really proud to be Irish.”