Irish in Ukraine: department reviewing visa rules for family members

Department of Justice says it is working to ensure visas are processed ‘as quickly as possible’

The Government has renewed its advice to Irish citizens to leave Ukraine amid concerns at a potential invasion by Russia.

These fears escalated over the weekend with the US warning an attack could come at any time.

On Sunday, the Department of Justice said it was reviewing administrative arrangements for visas to ensure it can assist Irish citizens and their family members in Ukraine speedily and effectively.

While Ukrainian nationals cannot currently enter the Republic without a visa, the department said that in the current circumstances all such visa applications will be dealt with “as quickly and as humanely as possible”.

A department spokesman added: “This includes family applications for non-EEA family members of Irish citizens, which will be processed swiftly.

“Officials in the Department of Justice are working with colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs on this issue.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs updated travel advice on Saturday, saying people should not travel to Ukraine and Irish citizens who are there should leave immediately.

The Irish Embassy in Kyiv will remain open with a small number of essential staff remaining. The Republic is among about a dozen countries who have urged their citizens to leave Ukraine.

The department says there are approximately 50 Irish people registered with the Embassy in Kyiv.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said on Sunday morning that he had spoken to Ireland’s ambassador in Ukraine, Thérèse Healy, last night.

He said: “She leads a small but effective team and remains present doing an important job supporting Irish citizens.”

Mr Coveney reiterated the advice that Irish citizens should leave Ukraine. He said on Twitter that Ireland will continue to work with European Union partners and will keep people updated.

The department said it “has been in direct contact with all of those scheduled to travel to Ukraine for surrogacy purposes in recent days. The department will continue to provide support to each of these individuals and families with advice relevant to their particular situation.”

Any Irish citizens requiring emergency consular assistance should contact the department, it said.

Email

Brendan Murphy, a businessman who lives in Kyiv, said he received an email on Saturday from the Irish Ambassador to Ukraine.

The message told Irish residents to “leave as soon as you can” – with that phrase underlined in the email.

The ambassador also advised those with Ukrainian partners or children to travel out via a Schengen country, where Ukrainians can arrive visa-free. She recommended Prague and Warsaw as two possible ports of entry.

“You should be prepared to factor in some days in such a location while a visa application is being examined by the Department of Justice,” she added.

However, Mr Murphy told The Irish Times on Saturday he was not inclined to leave and that even if he left with his family, he could not afford to spend an indeterminate amount of time in a third country waiting for visas.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee also appealed to Irish people in Ukraine to follow Department of Foreign Affairs advice and “leave immediately”.

She said that anyone who was due to travel for surrogacy reasons should contact the department.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said there is a “unique situation” that sees Irish families undertaking surrogacy with women in the Ukraine, which presents an “additional complication” to the situation.

He said the Government believes the Embassy is in contact with all of those families, but added: “We’re asking them again to register so we can continue to engage with them, keep in touch with them as this situation continues.”

Mr O’Gorman said there are a wide range of diplomatic interventions continuing in a bid to avoid conflict, adding “we all want them to succeed”.

He pointed to efforts by French and German leaders and said: “That’s really important because I think the consequences of military action here will be huge for the entire European continent.”

Any Irish citizens requiring emergency consular assistance should contact the Department of Foreign Affairs at 353-1-4082000. The updated travel advice for Ukraine is available at dfa.ie/travel.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

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