Nearly 600 Ukrainian refugees have been granted visas to come to Northern Ireland

Nearly 600 Ukrainian refugees have received visas to come to Northern Ireland.

The total number of refugees arriving in the area is not known at this time, with many arriving at Dublin Airport and crossing the land border.

However, some 598 visas have been issued to applicants sponsored by residents of Northern Ireland under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Figures, up to April 26, show most visa sponsors (95) are in Belfast, while there are 90 each in the council areas of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon ​​and Newry, Morne and Down.

Four centers where refugees can get help have been set up in Belfast, Newry, Craigavon ​​and Ballymena.

They include advice on the health service, schools and housing.

The Red Cross is also providing knitted Trauma teddy bears to arriving children.

Trauma Teddies are provided by the Red Cross to children arriving in Northern Ireland from Ukraine (PA)

Some 250 refugees have attended the centers over the past two weeks.

Ian Snowden, head of the Ukrainian refugee support team in Northern Ireland, said there had been a huge response in the region.

He said more than 6,000 people had expressed interest on the Homes for Ukraine website to host a refugee, more than twice the region’s proportion of the UK’s population for the scheme.

Around 1,000 Ukrainians have applied to come to Northern Ireland under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Ian Snowden is the head of the Ukrainian refugee support team in Northern Ireland (Rebecca Black/PA)

Mr Snowden said officials believed around 90 per cent of Ukrainian refugees in Northern Ireland came through Dublin Airport.

“As a result, it is very difficult for us to know who arrived and when they arrived,” he said.

He said there was no upper limit on the number of Ukrainians who could come to Northern Ireland, but they expected to receive around 3,000.

“But we are certainly preparing for the services we provide to be able to cope with much larger numbers,” he said.

Oleg Shenkaruk, 45, who moved to Northern Ireland from Ukraine nearly 20 years ago, described his anger at seeing scenes of the Russian invasion, sometimes saying he couldn’t watch them at television.

He helped at the Belfast Center with translation for newcomers.

“Our main aim is to help Ukrainians settle in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“People are settling in very well, the community has been very welcoming and supportive, offering jobs and different kinds of help.

“It’s great to be able to help people.”

He said that while many of his family members were in Northern Ireland, some remained in Ukraine and he spoke to them every day.

“Some don’t want to travel, it’s a very difficult decision to go to another country, it’s not easy,” he said.