Aid to be sent to Ukraine border countries reaching refugee capacity says Minister

Anne Rabbitte said Irish planes should be sent to Moldova to help refugees

Planes will have to be sent to poorer countries bordering Ukraine to bring refugees here, Minister of State for disabilities Anne Rabbitte has said.

Moldova in particular was nearing full capacity, with Romania in a similar position as they brace themselves for second and third 'waves' of refugees. These 'waves', predicted to include the most vulnerable including disabled, chronically ill, older and infirm Ukrainians, would be "the most devastating," she said.

Moldova would be unable to meet these very vulnerable refugees’ needs without outside assistance, including moving them on to third countries, while Romania would need assistance maintaining the flow of refugees transiting through.

“That is when Irish planes will have to land,” she said. The commitment, made last week by to take 500 refugees from Moldova, must be acted on without delay. “We pledged to do it. So do it. And if the plane has to go back for another 500 it should go.”


Minister Rabbitte was in Romania last week to mark St Patrick’s Day. She visited the capital Bucharest’s main train station as refugees arrived from the Moldovan/Ukrainian border, and the Romexpo trade and exhibition centre where 2,000 beds have been set up in the event that better accommodation, likes people’s homes, boarding schools and hotels, runs out.

The centre is currently a transit-point at which new arrivals can pick up supplies, like nappies, Sudocream and buggies, and do laundry, before moving on. No-one is sleeping there yet.

“They aren’t using the beds at Romexpo but they told me, as soon as we see them being used that has to be an alarm bell for every one of us. Then they are at capacity and cannot take any more,” said Ms Rabbitte.

“The Romanians are very conscious that Moldova [which borders both Ukraine and Moldava] is just so, so poor. They are running the trains from the Moldovan border straight up to Bucharest.

“When the trains arrive in they have a system - they move the women and children to one area, older people alone to another. Food arrives. They are not allowed stay for more than seven hours there. There is a flow.

“But they need to have that capacity for the safe movement of people, to keep the flow. They can manage that at the moment. But if, when that next surge comes that’s where we need to go in and land the plane. That’s where we need to go. It’s important that each member state assists in moving people on from there.”

Without such intervention unbearable pressure at the borders could put Ukrainians at risk of falling prey to those who would exploit the chaos.

“The Romanians are very aware of the weaknesses in their system when it comes to trafficking but we also are aware of it so that is why we must do all we can to assist the stop the pressure building up.”

While volumes crossing from Ukraine had slowed in recent days Minister Rabbitte was told Romania and Moldova were bracing themselves for the second and third waves, she said.

“The next expected movement will be when ceasefires allow people to move, when they come out from bunkers. The authorities are waiting for the next wave comes through. That will be the second wave.

“The third wave will be the most devastating. They will be the people with disabilities, the frail, the older people. They are the people who will have the greatest needs, who by-and-large have not left yet.

“Nobody has a time line on these waves. It’s really where the next massive attack is, or ceasefire is, and people will move really, really quickly to get out once that happens.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times