'Sheer misery' - Irish politicians cross border into Ukraine

Billy Kelleher says the EU needs a coordinated approach to open more crossings
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

11.11 7 Mar 2022

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'Sheer misery' - Irish politic...

'Sheer misery' - Irish politicians cross border into Ukraine

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

11.11 7 Mar 2022

Share this article

Two Fianna Fáil politicians crossed the border from Poland into Ukraine to see the situation first hand.

MEP Billy Kelleher says he and Senator Timmy Dooley travelled there at the invitation of political colleagues.

He says they saw first hand the "appalling suffering of people trying to get to European Union."


They will now ask political parties at European level to request more support for Ukrainian refugees.

Mr Kelleher is now back in Poland, but told The Pat Kenny Show what they saw.

"We crossed over from the Polish side to the Ukrainian side yesterday - we saw kilometres of queues of cars, people trying to cross the border from the Ukraine into Poland.

"We saw probably a four to five kilometre human queue of people just standing on the footpath, on the side of the road - mainly elderly people or young families.

"Many people in wheelchairs [with] disabilities.

"It was catastrophic to see it being truthful in terms of just the sheer misery, and the slowness in terms of processing the people to allow them to cross the border."

'Standing for two days'

He says people who are already exhausted then have to queue for days.

"The difficulty is that they are coming from very far east and they're travelling on trains.

"Then they may have to get off the trains, they're walking to the last part of the border - and then they maybe standing there for two days to get across".

He says they went across the border to highlight this issue.

"We do need to speed up the processing of people coming across the border from Ukraine into Poland.

"And that's why we were there, being truthful, was to just try and highlight this - to see if we can get the Commission and member states across the European Union to respond more quickly and effectively".

Ukrainian refugees crossing the Polish border in Medyka on March 1st 2022. Ukrainian refugees crossing the Polish border in Medyka on March 1st 2022. Picture by: SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Live News

He believes it is a question of logistics around the numbers of people arriving.

"We were at a crossing where normally there would be about 2,000 to 3,000 crossings a day.

"That is now 60,000+ - so it's just the sheer scale and volume of people that are arriving.

"We saw a queue of cars 20 kilometres long and a queue of people five to five kilometres long; and they would have been standing there all day, and they were standing there last night as well."

'Open up more'

Mr Kelleher says more border crossings need to be opened.

"There's six border crossings from Ukraine into Poland, and I believe that they will just have to open up more or extend the capacity to allow people to move seamlessly.

"They're anxious, they're concerned when they're on the Ukrainian side because they're hearing stories of the bombardment, they may have lost loved ones already, they're fleeing from Russian artillery".

And he believes facilities should see people being assessed on the EU side of the border.

"What we need to do is open up so they can come across the border into containment areas where they can be assessed on the European Union side of the border.

"So at least the anxiousness and the concern of standing on a road in Ukraine is [not] the issue".

'Sheer misery' - Irish politicians cross border into Ukraine

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Main image: People arrive at the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine on February 26th, 2022. Picture by: REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo/JAKUB STEZYCKI

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Billy Kelleher Border Crossings European Union Poland Timmy Dooley Ukraine

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