HUNDREDS of Ukrainian refugees have settled just across the border in Bundoran, in stark contrast to the tiny numbers living in Fermanagh.
According to the latest figures, 38,212 Ukrainians are being housed by the Irish government, with close to 4,000 being housed in the Donegal County Council region.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that the Grand Central Hotel in Bundoran received almost €2.5 million as part of government contracts to house Ukrainian refugees.
Initial figures showed there were 150 Ukrainians in the Grand Central Hotel and a further 140 in the Viscount Guesthouse on Bayview Avenue, with 48 others living in nearby Rossnowlagh. These numbers have increased since.
In comparison, an estimated 1,500 Ukrainians have arrived in the North overall, with fewer than 1,000 legally living here.
A total of 52 are currently living across two council areas in the west, Derry City/Strabane and Fermanagh/Omagh as of October 18, the UK Department of Levelling Up reports.
For those Ukrainian refugees already living in Fermanagh, the future is still uncertain.
Currently, the six-month period of the Homes for Ukraine scheme in the UK is coming to an end and the lack of clarity around what happens next is causing additional stress for refugees and those hosting them.
“Hosts who opened their homes to them for six months as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme, are now looking at having to put the families out of their houses or having to share their homes with them for much longer than they envisaged,” Mary Lafferty, manager of Erano, a refugee support group that helps those new to the Fermanagh and Omagh area, said.
“The UK government needs to address the problem and put together a proper plan to support and shelter the Ukrainian refugees because the situation as it stands now [in the North] is fraught with difficulties and uncertainties.
“With a combination of pressures including food and energy bills, soaring inflation, and ever-increasing interest rates many host families will be thinking the £350 [paid to them as part of the scheme] from the government does not go far enough.
“Without clear guidelines from the government, refugees [living here] are in limbo.”
Ms Lafferty acknowledged the efforts being made by the Irish government to take care of Ukrainians that have suddenly arrived in Ireland, but it’s only one step in a long road.
“With a rapid influx of Ukrainians seeking sanctuary in the early days of the war and still coming, the Irish government has an ongoing logistical challenge trying to house them so it is still early days to know if this is a solution that will work,” she explained.
“It certainly looks like a positive move but whether it’s a blueprint for other countries to follow, is too early to say, as much more than housing must be taken into consideration.
“A whole infrastructure needs to be looked at, not just housing.”
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