Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley, who travelled to the Ukrainian city of Lviv at the weekend, has called for the refugee process at the European borders to be made easier for people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.
Senator Dooley, who is vice president of the EU political grouping ALDE, told RTÉ radio's Morning Ireland that he and MEP Billy Kelleher had been invited to travel to Ukraine by a member of the Ukrainian People's Party – which is led by President Volodymyr Zelensky.
They were transported from the Polish border to Lviv, about 100 km away, by their Ukrainian colleagues to see first hand the difficulties being experienced.
“There were 20km long tailbacks of cars at the border along with 5km long lines of people who had walked to the border, some of whom had to spend two days in the cold waiting to be processed.
“It’s an appalling situation when you consider the temperatures at night,” he said.
Senator Dooley said they saw vulnerable people, young families, and there was a visible absence of men who had stayed to fight. “This really is a humanitarian crisis on the other side,” he said.
Mr Dooley said from the EU side there needed to be a more coordinated effort to get people over the border faster, and that he and his colleagues in ALDE will be reporting back to their respective parties with the message that the EU needed to give greater assistance.
When asked about the Department of Foreign Affairs recommendation that Irish people not travel to Ukraine, Senator Dooley said that he had taken a calculated risk.
Every effort would have to be made to “step up” to make it easier to cross the border. There was a huge willingness among the Irish people to assist people fleeing an appalling situation, he said.