Around 1,800 Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion have already arrived in Ireland, the Taoiseach has told The Pat Kenny Show.
Micheál Martin said the numbers arriving are “growing day by day” and called on Irish people to welcome them and “do everything we possibly can” to support them.
The Government has already estimated that up to 100,000 people, mostly women and children, will arrive here in the coming weeks and months.
The Taoiseach said every Government department is currently preparing and working on scenario planning to ensure people are offered the supports they need on arrival.
“As of now, about 1,800 have arrived into Ireland - Ukrainian people fleeing the war,” he said. “Including 486 yesterday, so it is growing and increasing day by day.
“About two-thirds of arrivals have connections with families in Ireland but that number is decreasing.
“In other words, more and more who don’t have connections with families in Ireland are arriving and it is fair to say we can expect that to increase significantly over the coming weeks.”
Mr Martin said the scenes at Ukraine’s border with the EU are “horrific” – with tens of thousands of people attempting to escape the invasion.
“The extraordinary numbers queuing and endeavouring to get over the border represents the worst displacement of people in Europe since World War Two,” he said.
“This is a major humanitarian crisis on the continent of Europe and the response to that will have to be outside of the norm. It can’t be business as usual in terms of how one responds to that.”
Asked how Ireland’s housing, health and education sectors would be able to cope with the influx, Mr Martin said: “The bottom line is this is an exceptional humanitarian crisis brought about by war”.
“It is a wartime situation and therefore our response has to be different to a non-wartime situation and all of us will have to everything we possibly can to make those services accessible to Ukrainians who are fleeing a war,” he said.
“To welcome them and to do everything we possibly can to ease the trauma that they have experienced in recent time – and it will be very, very challenging, I am not pretending otherwise.
“This is something we have never experienced before. We have never experienced the scale of this before.”
He said Government aimed to house the arrivals in State accommodation, “insofar as we possibly can”.
“In the first instance, we want to try and secure accommodations - hotels and other potential locations – where we can accommodate people in an emergency situation and I think we have to take this step by step,” he said.
“We are getting a very good response from people and this week, there will be a portal developed by the Department of Children to organise expressions and pledges of responses for the people of Ireland.
“For example, in the health area, quite a number of health personnel have contacted us to say they are willing to help with children, for example, with particular illnesses and to do what they can on trauma, paediatrics or just more general health.
“So, I think there is a genuine response across different sectors of Irish society which would be over and above what we do in our normal lives.”
It comes as the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Kremlin’s stance on humanitarian corridors was “completely immoral”.
Russia has said it will will hold fire and open humanitarian corridors in several Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv and Mariupol despite its armed forces continuing to attack some areas.
The corridors are being set up at the personal request of French President Emmanuel Macron; however, maps published by Russia's RIA news agency and seen by Reuters suggests they will only lead to Russia, Belarus or other Ukrainian cities.
A spokesman for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Russian stance on the corridors was "completely immoral" and that Ukrainians should have the right to evacuate the territory of Ukraine.
You can listen back to the Taoiseach here: