It has been a long journey from Ukraine, but there was a feeling of relief among refugees who had to stay in the old Terminal building at Dublin Airport while accommodation is sourced for them.
The stench of jet fuel and constant noise from planes taking off and landing permeated the air at the the building where Ukrainian refugee Sasha Akulov patiently sat on a milk crate today, waiting for a bus to take him to Citywest.
The 38-year-old fled his home in Kherson and spent seven days on a bus before arriving at Dublin Airport on Wednesday night.
But instead of sleeping in a bed following his gruelling journey, he and other Ukrainian refugees slept on the floor at the terminal building on Thursday night, which has become a make-shift reception centre, as the State scrambles to find them accommodation.
Despite this, he wasn’t complaining and said in broken English that he was just relieved to get here.
Fellow refugee Ievgeniiya Proskznina, (43), from Kharkiv, agrees. She said sleeping on the floor at the terminal on Thursday night was “no problem.”
While she admitted she “feels scared and is not sure what is happening,” she is relieved to be away from the constant Russian bombardment of her city and is now in a safe country.
“We’re tired, but relieved,” she said.
They have been sitting outside the terminal building intermittently since 6am on Friday for the bus to Citywest. And while they were still waiting at 3pm, they took it in stride.
Ukrainian teenager Ruslan Tashyrov, 18, was also waiting for the State-provided bus after arriving at the airport at noon. But he considers himself lucky.
His 16-year-old brother Timur and their mother met him at the airport after arriving in Ireland two weeks ago. They are now living in an apartment and will return to their new home in Ireland once his paperwork is sorted at the Citywest centre.
And like his countrymen, they said they are just relieved to be away from the hell that has become their homeland.
“Ireland, it’s a good country. It’s beautiful, it’s so green,” he said.
Tea, coffee, bottled water, yogurt and a croissant were on offer at the airport centre.
Earlier today Tánaiste Leo Varadkar described the plight of Ukrainian refugees sleeping in Dublin Airport as “not acceptable,” but said there are no plans to place a cap on numbers.
Mr Varadkar said the government has already identified a second reception centre similar to Citywest- which is now full, but contracts have not yet been signed.
“Ireland is facing an unprecedented situation fuelling the emergency accommodation crisis.
“Nobody wants to see people have to sleep in the airport.”
“That’s not an acceptable situation, but we shouldn’t be blind to what is happening in the world at the moment. We have a war in Europe for the first time in 40 years," he pointed out.
To date, over 40,000 people have arrived in Ireland from Ukraine. The Citywest Transit Hub was established to manage Ukrainian arrivals and support streamlined processing. Alongside the arrivals from Ukraine, there has also been a very significant rise in the number of people seeking International Protection (IP) here.
In recent weeks, the number of IP arrivals has necessitated these applicants being sent to the Citywest hub, pending accommodation being sourced for them. This is causing overcrowding in the hub.
The Government said in a statement it deemed it necessary to delay the transfer of new arrivals to the hub, and this decision resulted in new arrivals spending some time in the Old Terminal building at Dublin airport.
However, the intention is that this time would be kept to a minimum. Over 160 people were transferred out of the airport over the course of Thursday.
It added it was committed to ensuring the effective operation of the Citywest Transit hub to new arrivals from Ukraine.