No room at the inn: the Ukrainian refugees who are sleeping in Dublin Airport terminal

Arrivals are being housed in the old central terminal building, many of them having to sleep on their clothes or inflatable mattresses

Yaroslavna Serova arrived at Dublin Airport on Wednesday evening with her two children, Evgenia (14), and George (12), seeking refuge from the war in Ukraine.

After arriving, they completed the necessary paperwork and were placed on a bus transfer to Citywest transit hub, where refugees are being housed. However, before they could disembark, they were told there was no room, and were instead brought back to the airport.

“We were very tired as our journey to Ireland took a long time. When they sent us back to the airport, we were shocked and didn’t know what to do,” Ms Serova, (40), said at the airport in Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Department of Children announced it had to pause the intake of new arrivals into existing State accommodation because it had run out of beds and space at Citywest.


The shortage of accommodation means any Ukrainians or asylum seekers arriving into the country overnight may be stranded in the airport without a bed.

In a statement, DAA, the operator of Dublin Airport, said it has made the old central terminal building available to the department to help it “facilitate the arrival of Ukrainian nationals into Ireland”.

The building had previously served as a refugee reception centre in March.

According to residents in the old terminal, refugees are being housed in rooms with up to eight people in them, with many refugees stating they don’t have beds and instead must sleep on their clothes or inflatable mattresses.

Speaking about their journey to Ireland, Ms Serova said it was long, with many obstacles along the way.

When the war began, the family were in Kupiansk, a small town under Russian occupation in the Kharkiv region. It is only in recent weeks that people have been allowed to evacuate the area and flee to territory controlled by Ukraine.

“We were totally isolated. No internet, no phone connection, no Ukrainian television. We had to mind what we were saying about the regime even in queues because Russian spies were literally everywhere. We lived in constant fear,” she said.

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When they fled Kupiansk, they had to pass through four Russian checkpoints and walk 1km on foot, before reaching west Ukraine.

After two weeks, Ms Serova contacted Ukrainian volunteers in Ireland who arranged for a bus to take them to Poland and then put them on a subsequent flight to Dublin.

Now she, her children, her friend Natalia Marchenko (43) who also has an 8-year-old son Mark, are staying at Dublin Airport. They do not know where they will go, or what will happen next.

Ms Serova’s daughter Evgenia has lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease that requires specialist medicine and fortnightly checks.

“I’m worried about my daughter’s condition. Nobody knows when we will be in Citywest hub or somewhere else just to have a bed and see a doctor. Nobody tells us anything,” she said.

Despite this situation, and having to stay at the airport for an indefinite period of time, both women are grateful to Ireland, and Europe in general, for the hospitality and solidarity they have shown to Ukrainians.

Ms Marchenko, who is a long-time friend of Ms Serova, said: “We have food, water and a safe place to be. We are happy about it already.”

Another 19-year-old woman from Kyiv arrived in Dublin Airport on Wednesday night, and does not know when she will be moved elsewhere.

The woman, who did not want to be named, is hoping to be reunited with her mother, who is being accommodated in a hotel in Killarney.

“I’m worried whether everything will be all right with me and my friends here,” she said. “We are tired, want to sleep in a bed and just relax a little bit.”

As of Monday, 40,678 people had arrived into the State from Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24th, including 1,454 last week.

However, the Government said the significant surge in arrivals in recent weeks has resulted in a “severe shortage” of available accommodation.

Capacity issues at the Citywest conference facility became so great that the State had to source food from outside suppliers in addition to the catering available on site.

One worker at the facility, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “There is a lack of food and beds for refugees, people are sleeping in chairs.”

The Government said it is working “intensively” to put alternative arrangements in place.

The Ukraine Civil Society Forum, which is an umbrella group of 65 civil society organisations involved in the response and settlement of Ukrainian refugees, has called for a national lead to be put in place to oversee the accommodation, settlement and integration of refugees.

“We have to move from crisis mode to get on top of the situation. The war in Ukraine is not ending, and Ireland will have to continue to meet its international obligations to all refugees,” it said.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times