Ukrainian-born barrister among Irish barristers offering legal aid to refugees

Barrister’s two aunts, aged in their 70s, among those who fled Ukraine

Ukrainian-born barrister Anna Bazarchina, who came to Ireland as a child, is part of an initiative of barristers to make legal assistance available on a humanitarian basis for those fleeing her native land.

Ms Bazarchina knows more than most about the refugees’ needs. They include two of her aunts, aged in their 70s.

One of them arrived in Ireland last weekend to stay with her daughter who is a nurse in Galway University Hospital. “She didn’t want to leave, she has very little, mainly her memories. The hope is that this is temporary, most people I know want to go back to Ukraine, they love their country, it is their home,” Ms Bazarchina said. The need for processes to be speeded up for refugees was underlined by her 76-year-old aunt’s experience of being stuck in Moldova for a week while she got clarity from Irish authorities on visa and passport issues.

Another aunt, aged 75, is due to cross the Romanian border this week with other members of her family and Ms Bazarchina hopes she too will get to Galway safely. However, not everyone can leave with a third aunt of Ms Bazarchina, aged in her mid-60s and unable to travel due to a disability, remaining in her apartment in the Odessa region and “fearing for the worst”.


Ms Bazarchina has had many messages from friends who have left Ukraine and are considering coming to Ireland. “They are asking, what is happening, what is the attitude of the Irish people. I am telling people to come here.”

“I completely appreciate and cherish the legal system in Ireland. It is very fair, it is amazing to live in a country where the rule of law is respected,” said Ms Bazarchina who was called to the bar in 2013 having attended King’s Inns.

‘Very privileged’

“People here are very privileged to have such a legal system and to have their rights respected.”

Ms Bazarchina practises mainly in criminal law: “That is where my passion is, helping people, I love criminal law.”

She was born in a small town near Odessa and came to Ireland as a young child in the 1990s with her mother and Cuban stepfather. She now lives with her husband and two children, aged 12 and 14, in Dublin. She said she is “glued to the TV, I can’t concentrate on anything but the war”.

“You’re putting your kids to bed at night and thinking of all the other children who are in the cold and in bunkers.”

Ms Bazarchina still has relatives in Kyiv and Odessa. Among those is her sister about whom she is very worried. She is also a lawyer and is separated and opted to stay and fight with her 20-year-old son after sending her two younger children with her parents to Germany.

A list is being gathered of lawyers willing to participate on a register of EU lawyers to assist immigration and refugee NGOs and civil society organisations in helping fleeing Ukrainians. The Immigration, Asylum and Citizenship Barristers Association (IACBA) is involved in compiling this list, through the Bar of Ireland and the Council of European Bars.

Denise Brett SC, chair of the IACBA, said there has been a very positive response from lawyers here to the initiative. “A crisis such as this, which sees the large-scale sudden movement of millions as a result of an invasion, calls on us all to contribute in whatever way we can.”

The nature of the pro bono emergency assistance can relate to the legal complexities concerning the temporary protection directive, applications for international protection or other issues relating to permission to enter and remain in the State, Ms Brett outlined. Lawyers with expertise in social welfare, housing, employment and education law can also assist.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times