Portugal “one of best examples” in opening hearts to Ukrainian refugees
Another 263 Ukrainian refugees are due to arrive in Portugal on Thursday in the latest humanitarian flight organised by the Ukrainian refugees association (UAPT), which has brought in over a thousand refugees since the start of the Russian invasion.
Portuguese charter airline EuroAtlantic Airways will make the new flight, scheduled to leave Lisbon on Thursday (April 21) bound for Lublin, Poland.
The plane will carry around 15 tons of medicine and generators destined for both refugees at the Polish border and those who remain in conflict areas, and return the same day with 263 Ukrainians, who are currently living in a Polish reception centre.
Iryna Shkira, one of the UAPT’s volunteers said the bulk of the “humanitarian aid will go to Lviv”, the Ukrainian city close to the Polish border which was the target of five Russian missiles on Monday.
Lusa explains this is the fifth flight organised by UAPT – created by a group of people who met at a protest outside the Russian embassy in Lisbon.
The four previous humanitarian flights rescued 1,012 refugees mostly women, children, the elderly and some disabled people (men in the main have stayed in Ukraine to help with the war effort).
The association’s experience shows that around half incoming refugees choose Portugal because they have family or friends here. These have ended up staying in the homes of their family and friends.
After the first flight, on March 10, “everything became much easier”, said Ms Shkira. On the third trip, waiting lists began to appear: “Our flights fill up in minutes. We had about a thousand people on the waiting list,” she added, stressing the association keeps in touch with the people on the list, and some end up reaching Portugal by bus.
In Portugal the association’s 60 volunteers try to accompany families from the moment they arrive: “We become a kind of mentor to help in whatever is needed,” said Iryna, explaining that the “most difficult thing is to recover from the trauma”.
“Only after a few weeks do people start to realise that they are safe. Most are from eastern Ukraine, which is the area most affected by the war and therefore need psychological support,” she said.
Through various partnerships, the association has managed to arrange shelters in Leira, Azambuja, Mafra, Fundão and Viseu. There are also people staying with citizens who have decided to give up their homes.
“Portugal is one of the best examples in Europe in terms of reception. The people we have accompanied tell us that although Portugal has a little lower social support, there is no comparison in the way they are received here, with so much affection. Portugal is one of the best examples”, the volunteer assured.