Ukrainians’ access to broadband is “almost as important as running water and sanitation”, a local official has said.
Ivan Grimes works as Waterford’s Director of Housing, Community and Emergency Services and has helped 200 refugees settle into the county so far.
“In the modern era access to broadband is very, very important,” he explained.
“Particularly for the refugees to be able to communicate back to family and friends in Ukraine.
“But also to carry out basic things like education and some appear to be working remotely from home.
“Broadband would now be regarded as a critical service - almost as important as running water and sanitation.”
Some 25,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Ireland and civil servants across the nation are grappling with how best to accommodate them.
While in Mayo, the county council’s Director of Services has urged owners of holiday homes - usually found in the most scenic and remote parts of the county - to “show leadership, to step up, to provide that accommodation at a time when it is most needed”, in Waterford local officials say they are trying to find housing in urban areas first:
“The policy is to try and not use rural areas if we can,” Mayor of Waterford Joe Kelly added.
“And the reason for that is that in an urban centre, whether it be a city or indeed Tramore or Dungarvan - they’re big towns and they have links.
“They have strong broadband, there are bus services, there are taxi services.
“Whereas if you went into the rural parts of the county, the refugees are traumatised as it is.
“They’d be in a community [and] although they’d be welcomed, they don’t have the same kind of connections with home where they can ring home, they can use the internet, Skype, all of these things.
“And they wouldn’t have access to transport. So we’re concentrating on the urban hubs - certainly in the first instance.”
However, not all refugees are so dogmatic; one young mother, who has been housed close to Waterford’s city centre, said that the most important thing is that she and her daughters have a roof over their heads:
“The most important [thing is] that we have accommodation,” Catriona told Newstalk.
“This is the main thing and [when] we were coming here, we understood that because of [our] dog it could be hard for us to find an accommodation.
“That’s why we are very lucky… because we found a person who agreed to accept us.”
She does acknowledge that living close to the city centre has some key advantages:
“It’s very important because every person and especially children, they want to feel like [they have] a normal social life.
“That’s why transport, schools or even regular things to do… it’s very important.
“That’s why, of course, all the services around are also very important.”
Main image: Ukrainian families crosses through the border as first migrants from Ukraine flee the Russian invasion and enter border town of Medyka, Poland on February 24, 2022. Picture by: Dominika Zarzycka/Sipa USA) Credit: Sipa USA/Alamy Live News