The destruction of a dam in southern Ukraine could soon see an increase in refugees arriving in Ireland, the Taoiseach has warned.
The Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine held back a reservoir so huge that locals called it the Kakhovka Sea.
Its destruction has unleashed huge torrents of water all across the surrounding areas, with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calling it an "environmental bomb of mass destruction".
The breach is expected to have severe impacts on access to fresh drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people, as well as impacts on ecosystems and agriculture.
Meanwhile, thousands of people will have to leave their homes due to the flooding.
“That’s not realistic, it’s not legal, it’s not practical.”
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) June 8, 2023
Speaking before Cabinet this morning, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the disaster could see more people fleeing the country.
“We have to prepare for the possibility that we’ll see an increase in Ukrainians to other parts of Europe, including Ireland, but also, we need to make sure that Ukraine gets the humanitarian assistance that it needs,” he said.
“One of the things we’ll certainly be discussing at Cabinet today is how we can make sure that assistance gets to people in Ukraine and also in Russia-occupied Ukraine because that’s going to be essential.
"You just look at the pictures and it is like a Biblical scene almost to see houses underwater and to see water levels so high.
“The first thing has to be humanitarian help for the people that are there at the moment.”
The Taoiseach said ministers would examine whether there was more Ireland can do to help international agencies like the Red Cross or Médecins Sans Frontière.
“It really is a shocking situation and a huge humanitarian catastrophe on top of a country that has been at war now for more than year,” he said.
“I am conscious as well that this is a war zone and we have to be conscious as well of the safety of humanitarian workers,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar said a €1.5m payment the Government is set to pay to the EU over its failure to house 350 asylum seekers dates from an agreement made over two years ago, when countries in the Mediterranean were experiencing a rise in refugees arriving from Africa.
“Things have changed fundamentally since then,” he said.
“We are now one of the countries under pressure because we have taken in nearly 100,000 people, mainly from Ukraine but also from other parts of the world.
“That changes things so we are now no longer able to accept those 350 people form the Mediterranean but we are going to make a financial contribution instead which is allowed for.”
He said Ireland would not be putting a cap on the number of refugees it is willing to accept.
“I know there are some people that would like us to put a limit on the number of people seeking international protection in Ireland - that’s not realistic, it’s not legal, it’s not practical,” he said.
“But we can manage the flows better and that is one thing we are trying to do.”