Some public transport services available for free for Ukrainian refugees

It is estimated that around 100,000 refugees will arrive in Ireland in the weeks ahead

Some public transport operators are allowing Ukrainian refugees arriving into Ireland to use their service for free to reach their end destination.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine two weeks ago, many Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have fled their home country to neighbouring countries, such as Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

While some of those people are staying in those countries, many others are travelling to other areas in Europe, including Ireland.

It is estimated that between 80,000 and 100,000 Ukrainian refugees could arrive in Ireland in the weeks ahead.

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To assist those on their journey, Bus Éireann said people arriving into the country having fled the war can travel to their "final destination for free on Expressway and Bus Éireann services".

To avail of the offer, the refugees must show the driver their Ukrainian ID, evidence of arrival in Ireland within the previous seven days, such as an airline booking email, or confirmation from a co-ordinating group or charity.

Irish Rail has also said it is helping refugees fleeing the crisis with their rail travel upon arrival into Ireland, for transfer from arrival point to relatives, host families or other facilities within the country.

The decision to make the service free for these refugees is in line with European rail counterparts, many of whom have a similar offering.

A spokeswomen said station staff have been advised that refugees need to present a Ukrainian passport and proof of recent travel to avail of the service for free.

“We will continue to liaise with the Red Cross to make sure we are making the process as easy as possible,” she said.

Stena Line, a ferry operator, said it has been providing free travel to Ukrainians across all routes since the beginning of the conflict.

They now get free meals onboard too, the company said in a tweet.

Asked if Dublin Bus was operating a similar scheme for these refugees, a spokeswoman said the National Transport Authority is "responsible for the determination of fares on bus services across the greater Dublin area".

As such, the query should be directed to them, the spokeswoman added. However, the spokeswoman said Dublin Bus is supporting any employee who is affected directly or indirectly by the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Community Development said there are a “lot of questions” the Government cannot answer with regard to accommodating Ukrainian refugees.

It is estimated that around 100,000 refugees will arrive in Ireland in the weeks ahead.

Minister of State Joe O’Brien said we are only in the “very initial stage” of the humanitarian crisis.

“We’re 17 days into the war and our initial priority was to get people shelter. The quickest way we could do that is to book places in hotels. We are also planning in the medium term as well,” he said on RTE Radio One’s Saturday with Katie Hannon.

“A lot of the integration supports that will happen will need to happen in the medium to long term. We’re looking at everything accommodation wise, both temporary, medium and long term. There are a lot of questions that we cannot answer 100 per cent right now in terms of where people are going to be living.”

Around 15,000 pledges of accommodation have been made by Irish people to house Ukrainians, according to the Irish Red Cross.

Mr O’Brien said utilising vacant houses will be prioritised, before shared housing will be brought on stream.

When Ukrainian refugees arrive in Dublin Airport, they can get their PPS number processed on site, assuming they are able to stay for several hours, Mr O’Brien said.

They also receive a letter granting them temporary protection, and for those who want accommodation, which is currently about one third of arrivals, they are being referred directly to that service, he added.

The refugees are supported when completing their medical card application, however Mr O’Brien said they have immediate access to the free service through their letter.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times