Moldova, Romania offer lessons for Ireland on refugees - report

Members of Oireachtas committee travelled to countries at frontline of Ukraine refugee crisis

The Government can learn from how Moldova and Romania have planned and integrated Ukrainian refugees into their communities, Oireachtas EU affairs committee members have said.

Speaking on the publication of a report on the committee's visit to the countries bordering war-torn Ukraine, the committee pointed to the importance of coordinated planning between health, housing and education government departments in the two countries in managing the crisis.

The Oireachtas EU affairs committee produced their report after a fact-finding mission by four members to the two eastern European countries last month to see how they were managing the influx of refugees from neighbouring Ukraine since the Russians invaded in late February.

More than 450,000 refugees have crossed into Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries with a population of 2.6 million. Almost 900,000 have fled to Romania, an EU country.

The Oireachtas committee’s draft report said the Government’s response should learn from the experience of Moldova and Romania in understanding “the distinction between the short-term emergency reception and triage, and longer-term protection and inclusion”.

The Government’s contingency planning for future surges of refugees entering the State should consider public health screening for conditions such as polio and dysentery and protection for unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable categories of refugees, the report recommended.

Labour TD Brendan Howlin said Romania's advanced and "sequential" planning has ensured refugees remained in camps on an interim basis with plans in place to move them on to longer term accommodation quickly.

Sinn Féin TD John Brady said the Government needed to prepare for “a long conflict” and further waves of refugees. He said 100,000 Ukrainian refugees have remained in Moldova but just 5 per cent were living in dedicated centres with people accommodating the remainder in homes.

Ireland and other countries needed to do more for Moldova and Romania to ensure there were "no bottlenecks" in those countries and to "ease the burden on countries on the frontline," he said.

The committee expressed fears about a Russian invasion of Odesa near Moldova's border with the potential for up to 100,000 refugees crossing a day if Ukraine's third largest city is attacked.