Survey reveals Ukrainian refugees’ challenges with life in Ireland so far

Issues around the banking and taxation system, language barriers, public transport, and shared accommodation have all been expressed by Ukrainians who fled to Ireland after the Russian invasion.

owever, the survey conducted by the Ukrainian Action group, also saw Ukrainians expressing overwhelming gratitude to the Irish people and Government. 

It is estimated that around 36,000 Ukrainian refugees now live here after they felt forced to abandon their homes following the February 24 invasion.

An online survey has now shown the areas of both satisfaction and concern, and it hopes the information can be used to help tackle issues of greatest difficulty.

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The survey was completed by almost 2,200 adults, but when their children are counted it amounts to more than 4,400 people, or 13pc of the total population of Ukrainians in Ireland.

Ninety percent of respondents wrote messages of support when asked; “What do you say to the Irish Government”.

Those messages included ‘My house is ruined, me and my baby are so grateful’, ‘I stopped crying when I arrived here, I thought my life was over’, ‘I never expected this level of support’, ‘We are alive because of you’, and ‘Thank you for every Irish person I’ve met here’.

On the impact of war, 44pc said war actions such as bombings happened or are still happening in their cities. 17pc said they have nowhere to return to because their homes are damaged or ruined. The Russian army has occupied the cities of 15pc of the respondents, the survey found.

Despite the trauma of war, it appears that the Ukrainians are confident in their mental health. Half the respondents said they do not need psychological support. Just over 15pc are seeking a therapist.

But moving to a new country has its challenges, and the survey highlighted the areas where people were having difficulties.

The issue of privacy in shared accommodation was brought up where strangers are sharing rooms, and many respondents said they had brought their home currency, the hryvnia, with them as they fled, not being able to convert it along the way, and they have found they cannot convert it to euro here.

A lack of understanding about Ireland’s taxation system, and being unable to confidently calculate net pay from gross pay, was also a difficulty for many.

Getting a bank card has also been problematic, often because of a lack or loss of documentation, changing addresses, and language barriers. 70pc of respondents hadn’t got a bank card as a result.

Almost three quarters of Ukrainians here are willing to actively contribute to the economy. Half of them are actively seeking a job, but nearly 80pc of those looking for a job do not have a bank account or bank card.

Some cannot work because they are single parents of young children. Nearly half the respondents are mothers here alone with their children. Two thirds of those are married but are single mothers here because their husbands are fighting the Russians at home.

Language barriers and childcare, as well as medical card issues, are also proving a barrier to employment, as well as access to public transport in remote areas. Road safety in remote areas was also mentioned as a problem, with respondents saying they are not safe to walk on, especially with children.

There were also some complaints that translators hired by social services had an ‘unfriendly attitude’.

Many Ukrainians also want to know what will happen in a year’s time when the temporary protection they are afforded here expires.

But despite the challenges the respondents did not want to appear ungrateful. “All challenges seem irrelevant compared to the first days of the war,” the survey found.

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