Northern Ireland

Ukraine refugee numbers in north in stark contrast to Republic

Oleg Shenkaruk, chair of NI Ukrainians
Oleg Shenkaruk, chair of NI Ukrainians Oleg Shenkaruk, chair of NI Ukrainians

FEWER than 1,000 Ukrainian refugees forced from their homes by war are legally living in Northern Ireland - in stark contrast to the tens of thousands in the Republic.

Latest figures published by the UK government reveal 652 have arrived and are living here under the home sponsorship scheme. A further small number are in the north under a separate family sponsorship scheme, while several hundred landed in Dublin and have crossed the border, according to estimates by one support group.

In total, it is estimated 1,500 Ukrainians have arrived in the north since the invasion.

According to figures released earlier this month by Dublin’s Department of Integration, there are now 38,212 Ukrainians who have full status as “beneficiaries of temporary protection” and being housed by the state. More than 4,000 are being housed in pledged private accommodation.

However, the CSO estimates the total number of refugees is more than 50,000, including those still being processed towards full protective status.

Close to 4,000 Ukrainian refugees are being housed in the Donegal County Council region. A total of 52 are living across two council areas in the west, Derry City/Strabane and Fermanagh/Omagh as of October 18th, the UK Department of Levelling Up reports.

Oleg Shenkaruk, chair of the support group NI Ukrainians, said the process linking refugees with sponsor families is “very complicated” while there are multiple reports hosts are not receiving the proper support, particularly promised financial backing. This may be putting people off coming forward to offer their homes, he added.

Mr Shenkaruk cited the example of an individual who arrived through Dublin, has been here for over a month and has been trying unsuccessfully to get legal status via home sponsorship, a visa and, therefore, the ability to work.

“It is a very complicated situation. He has been here over a month but he has no sponsor here and there is no-one here to help," said Mr Shenkaruk, one of the organisers of a rally outside Belfast City Hall on Sunday to mark eight months since the invasion.

The UK Government’s position is that the Common Travel Area (CTA) has never required the UK and Ireland to have entirely harmonised immigration arrangements.

While the sponsorship schemes are UK-wide, the Executive Office is largely responsible for their management.

West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan, the SDLP's social justice spokesman, said: ""Whilst the South and other EU countries have stepped up to help and support those seeking refuge, unfortunately the British government (is) imposing a very strict set of conditions to allow Ukrainians to travel...and this has significantly impacted our ability to take in those in need of help. The figures speak for themselves."