Northern Ireland news

Minister Deirdre Hargey writes to head of civil service over helping refugees fleeing Ukraine

A refugee who fled the Russian invasion from neighbouring Ukraine plays with a baby inside a ballroom converted into a makeshift refugee shelter at a 4-star hotel & spa, in Suceava, Romania, Friday March 4 2022 (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru) 

Stormont Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has said her department “stands ready” to provide sanctuary to refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Ms Hargey said that in the absence of a functioning Executive, she had written to the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Jayne Brady, about establishing a scheme to accept refugees in Northern Ireland.

During ministerial question time, she was asked by Sinn Féin party colleague Pat Sheehan what she could do to provide support for refugees fleeing from the war zone.

Ms Hargey said: “They are distressing images that we are all seeing on our TVs in terms of those who are fleeing their own homes because of violence that has been happening in their streets and communities.

“Our thoughts are with all of those almost 2m people who have been forced to flee and become refugees as a result of what is happening within Ukraine at the minute.

“My department has a long-standing history of welcoming people from war-torn countries into our communities. The community here has been very open in welcoming refugees and asylum seekers.

“We have run the Syrian resettlement scheme in terms of addressing some of those issues.”

She added: “I know there are obviously difficulties at the moment because we don’t have a functioning Executive where normally these issues would be highlighted around that table.

“Despite that and the barriers that may create, I have written to the head of the Civil Service to ensure that my department stands ready to get a refugee scheme to make sure that we are up and running to assist in any way that we can in terms of the humanitarian crisis that are faced by many Ukrainians.

“I hope that we can roll out a similar scheme to what we have done with the Syrian refugees. My department stands ready and able if we can find a proactive way around no functioning Executive, of starting to receive Ukrainian refugees then we are ready and waiting for that to happen.

“We need to do all that we can to provide support and sanctuary.”

The minister continued: “I am going to work to provide solutions, that is why I have written to the head of the civil service that we can actually start to get the work done even in the absence of a functioning Executive due to a party walking away.

“The Ukrainian people should have not just our solidarity but our proactive support in meeting them in their greatest time of need.”

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