Wexford offers ‘humanitarian welcome’ as around 1,500 refugees arrive in Rosslare in less than two weeks
“TWO seconds, I just have to take this.” Sean Boyce, from Rosslare, has juggled three separate phones over the past week as he finds himself front and center coordinating the local response to a once-in-a-generation humanitarian crisis.
With each ferry docking at Rosslare from the mainland, more and more Ukrainians are fleeing the horrors of the Russian invasion. Some have seen their homes completely destroyed, loved ones killed, and experienced fear beyond our comprehension. When he hastily established Rosslare Harbor Friends of Ukraine, rallying the local community to welcome these travel-weary refugees was paramount in Sean’s mind.
However, what started as a local response has now massively morphed into a countywide and national response. Almost every day more and more Ukrainians arrive and need help. Rosslare Europort has already seen over 1,500 arrivals after transcontinental travel. Up to 300 of them are currently being housed in emergency accommodation across County Wexford, including a rapidly prepared facility at the Rosslare Hotel. Around 600 more people are due to board ferries in the coming days and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Alongside Alan Murphy of Murphy’s SuperValu in Rosslare Harbour, Sean appealed to several groups. After contacting the Wexford Volunteer Centre, a steady stream of volunteers has been recruited and their numbers now stand at around 150.
The greatest flurry of activity occurs when boats arrive from the mainland. Stena Line offering free travel to Ukrainian refugees, most of them disembark from the Stena Horizon, tired and stressed.
“These people spent at least eight days traveling to get to this point,” Sean said. “Some of them only have the clothes they’re standing in. They’re hungry, they’re tired, they’re in a country they’ve never been before and they have no idea what’s going to happen. What we are trying to do is to offer them a humanitarian welcome.
The result of collecting and transporting donations over the past few weeks has seen a ‘free shop’ established upstairs at Rosslare Terminal. Particularly striking was the sight of chairs lined with children’s toys and teddy bears, ready to welcome small children arriving from a war zone in an effort to allay, temporarily at least, some of the anxiety that they carry on their small shoulders.
“Basically, we have essential items that people can take away for free,” says Sean. “It ranges from underwear, to dried food, to snacks, to teas and coffees, we’ve had people making sandwiches, phone chargers, everything. The response from people has been amazing, to both in terms of donating money and items, and volunteering their time to come and help here.”
It was a view shared by Wexford Volunteer Center director Jane Byrne, who has spent the past two days helping to coordinate major efforts at the port.
“We’re just overwhelmed with the response we’ve received since launching the call for volunteers for this,” she said. . The role played by the volunteers here helps relieve some of the stress for people who have been through so much already. We are really pleased with the response.
With up to 600 more Ukrainian refugees due to land in port before the weekend, things are only going to get worse. Those wishing to become involved in some degree as a volunteer can still do so by registering their interest at [email protected]
Meanwhile, volunteers and various community organizations and state agencies continue to show up for the people of Wexford with every ship that docks.
“We’re doing everything we can,” Sean said. “It started as a simple community effort and now it has spread across the county. We have received substantial donations from all over and our volunteer efforts are growing day by day with the help of the volunteer center, the Wexford County Council and various state agencies It is a true team effort and the response we are getting continues to be overwhelming.