The Irish Times view on Ukraine refugee exodus: time to open the doors

Challenge for all EU member states can only be solved collectively

Estimates by the UN put the number of those fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine at four to seven million. And EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told EU interior ministers in Brussels on Sunday that "I think we will have to prepare for millions". More than 350,000 have already crossed the border, most into Poland. All are welcome, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has rightly promised. "Everyone who has to flee Putin's bombs will be welcomed with open arms."

The exodus will far exceed the 'refugee summer' of 2015 when some one million refugees and asylum-seekers arrived in Central Europe

Ireland has said it will respond generously and has introduced visa waivers. Minister for Justice Helen McEntee insists: “We’ve made it very clear, anybody who is a Ukrainian citizen who wishes to come to Ireland, whether that’s seeking international protection or to join family members, they’re welcome to do so and we will of course, provide support, provide accommodation, provide whatever is necessary to keep them safe”.

The exodus will far exceed the “refugee summer” of 2015 when some one million refugees and asylum-seekers arrived in Central Europe, principally Germany, from Syria’s war zone. This time, however, the reception will be far more welcoming, not least in those countries like Poland and Hungary so hostile to immigrants and so opposed then to the idea of EU-wide burden sharing of the influx of Mediterranean refugees.

Lithuania has asked for just such a formal mechanism today to allocate a share of refugees to each member-state, and it should be supported. On Thursday the scheduled EU justice and home affairs ministers’ meeting is likely also to vote to use a “temporary mass protection” law to extend refugees’ residency status without having to go through complex asylum procedures. This protection directive was brought in following the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.


Romania’s interior minister told colleagues that around half of the refugees who have arrived in his country have already moved on to other EU members. Ukraine’s desperate outflow, like that in the earlier crisis, is a challenge for all EU member states that can only be solved collectively.