States need to plan long-term for Ukrainian refugees, says Eamon Gilmore

EU human rights representative says International Criminal Court preparing for war crimes investigation

Countries need to plan and prepare for dealing with refugees from the war in Ukraine as a long term issue, the EU's special representative on human rights Eamon Gilmore has said.

The former tánaiste and minister for foreign affairs said “this is not going to be about weeks or months”.

Speaking in Washington on Tuesday Mr Gilmore also said he believed war crimes were being committed by Russian forces in Ukraine and the International Criminal Court (ICC) was gearing up to carry out an investigation.

He said the ICC was in contact with member states about additional financial supports required to take on these additional roles.


Mr Gilmore said there were also concerns on a human rights basis as to what was going on in Russia itself.

He said about 15,000 people had been detained because of their opposition to the war and the Putin government had introduced potential jail terms of 15 years for anyone who even described the invasion of Ukraine as a war.

Mr Gilmore said the type of language being used by Russian leader Vladimir Putin about those who opposed the war - whom he described as "scum" and "traitors" - had not been heard in Europe since the 1930s.

Mr Gilmore said over half of all Ukrainian refugees who had left the country to escape the conflict were children.

He said they were going to need schools and education and this was going to have to be provided in their native Ukrainian language.

He said there was going to be physical requirements to have schools and to have teachers mobilised. However he said accommodation as well as employment issues were going to have to be addressed.

He said that on a visit to Poland last week he had seen that lots of the two million people who had fled Ukraine were living with family and friends in spare rooms.

He said sports facilities were also being used. He said in Warsaw he had seen an ice skating rink which now had 500 beds in the middle.

However Mr Gilmore said this was “not sustainable in the long term”.

He said most Ukrainians he had spoken to believed they would be returning home soon.

However he said we do not know if, how or in what way the war in Ukraine will end.

He said even if the conflict was halted in the morning many towns and cities have been substantially damaged.

Mr Gilmore was in Washington for an annual human rights consultation between the EU with the United States. He was also meeting this week with senior politicians on Capitol Hill and with officials of the United Nations.

One of the issues under discussion was the human rights implications of new digital technology. He said the EU and US planned to work together, for example on the way in which women human rights defenders were being subject to threat, intimidation and on-line sexual violence.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent