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The duty-free shop on deck 7 of Isabelle has been turned into lockers and storage rooms, the fragrance section is full of suitcases and the refrigerated display cases are stuffed with labeled grocery bags. The shuttered casino on board has become a hangout for teens. The Palace of Stars nightclub on deck 8 is where women meet, making camouflage nets for returning Ukrainian soldiers.

“It made me feel closer to them,” Diana Kotsenko said, tying strips of green, brown and maroon cloth to a net that hung from a metal frame, her 2-year-old Emiliia pulling her knees.

For the past three months, Ms. Kotsenko and her daughter have lived on the Isabel, the 561-foot-long cruise ship chartered by the Estonian government to temporarily house some more than 48,000 refugees Since the Russians invaded Ukraine in February, they have arrived in the tiny Baltic country.

The ship, which once carried overnight passengers between Stockholm and Riga, Latvia, is now moored next to Terminal A in the port city of Tallinn, Estonia. Its 664 cabins can accommodate around 1,900 people — most of them women and children — who can enter and exit the ship’s massive cargo doors at will.

Residents are only a small part of 6.3 million The influx of Ukrainians into Europe. Their fate shows that the refugee influx has put pressure on most of the countries that have welcomed them.

Isabelle rented from Estonian shipping company Tallink for four months in April as an emergency shelter. But the government has extended the contract until October as residents have nowhere to put it.

The shortage of refugee housing is putting enormous pressure on the entire continent and the UK. Low-rent housing is scarce and rents are rising.

In Scotland, the government announced last month suspend its program Sponsoring Ukrainian refugees due to lack of accommodation. In the Netherlands, dozens of refugees sleep on the grass outside an overcrowded shelter in the village of Ter Apel. on Monday, Dutch Refugee Council Announced plans to sue the government for housing conditions below minimum legal standards.

According to a new report from Ukraine, of all the challenges facing Ukrainians fleeing to safe havens, access to housing is the most pressing. Organization for Economic Development and CooperationThe problem of finding long-term accommodation is only expected to worsen given rising inflation, the report concluded.

“Early evidence also suggests that despite the security risks, lack of housing is the main motivation for refugees to return to Ukraine,” it said.

Governments – already struggling to accommodate refugees and asylum seekers from other parts of the world – have established emergency shelter facilities, rented hotels and provided financial support to host families. But with reception centers overcrowded, countries have had to scramble to find other solutions. Schools, hotels, sports venues, shipping containers, tents and even cruise ships have become temporary shelters.

In Estonia, the government recruited Tallink, which has leased its ships in the past as temporary accommodation for construction projects, military personnel and events. One of them housed police during the G7 meeting in the UK last year. The other was chartered during the Global Climate Conference in Glasgow last fall.

Scottish government turns to Tallink as it faces its own refugee housing crisis, last week the first Ukrainians Move into a Tallink boat Docked at the port of Edinburgh.

The Netherlands is also using cruise ships. In April, 1,500 refugees were moved into a Holland American Shipping ship docked in Rotterdam.Last week, the government’s asylum agency announced plans two more boats Seven months from Tallink.

Floating solutions have been met with suspicion and even hostility in some respects.Before the Tallink ship arrived in Scotland, some news account Breathless warning of the risk of a Covid-19 outbreak.

Dutch government heavily criticized Abandoned proposal Placing refugees on boats moored on open water shores makes it difficult for people to get ashore.

In Tallinn, since the outbreak of the 2020 outbreak, the Isabel was out of service due to travel restrictions before being put into use for refugees. Natalie Shevchenko has been living off it since April. She looked for an apartment in the city, but couldn’t find one she could afford.

Ms Shevchenko, a psychologist from Kyiv, has been working with mothers and children on board to help them adjust.

“When you live on a boat, it’s like a big community,” she said.

On a recent night, there was a steady stream of people entering and leaving the ship after a brief stop at the security desk to scan their ID cards. On deck 8, diners lingered over coffee at the Grand Buffet. “The food is good,” Ms. Shevchenko said. “There are many desserts, cakes and ice creams.”

In the lounge area, a dozen people sat in front of televisions watching news from Ukraine. Groups of teenagers hang out on the long decks or recline on chairs near the casino’s empty blackjack tables. Two floors below, near the stairs where the strollers are parked, the children spread out to play games on the blue and white rug, and two giggling boys slide down a short brass railing as the mothers watch.

Volunteers donated toys, clothes and strollers, and organized events and excursions. On the 10th floor, refugees can meet with social service personnel. Announcements in Ukrainian about summer camps, free exhibitions and language and culture courses are plastered on the ship’s bulletin board. The newly named Liberty School plans to begin teaching in Ukrainian and Estonian in the fall. Players of the Estonian football club joined the training clinic last weekend.

When Ms. Shevchenko needed some solitude, she fled to one of the lower car decks. She shared a claustrophobic sixth-floor cabin and bathroom with another woman she didn’t know before. The space between the beds is narrower than the airplane aisle. Bags, shoes and boxes are tucked under the bed. A white rope runs through the wall to hang clothes.

“This is our kitchen,” Ms. Shevchenko said with a smile, pointing to a shelf with bottled water and sodas. On the windowsill sits a flower pot, a 34th birthday present from the Estonian psychologist she recently worked with.

“We’re lucky to have a window,” she said. Some cabins on the lower deck do not. That’s a problem for those who have to hide underground in Ukraine, she said: “Some people have panic attacks.”

A few doors away is the cottage that Olga Vasilieva and her 6-year-old son share with another mother and son. The two women use the unfolded upper bunk bed to store toys, bags and snacks, and sleep with the children on the narrow bed below. Larger cabins are reserved for families with three or more children.

One of the benefits of living with many other families is being able to play with a lot of kids. “He has a lot of friends,” Ms. Vasilyeva said, turning to ask Ms. Shevchenko to translate.

Ms Vasilieva wanted to go home before the school year began, but so far it has not been safe. Ms Vasilieva said that although she has two jobs in Ukraine, she is now out of work because she has no one to take care of her son. She said she receives about 400 euros a month from the Estonian government. About 100 refugees work at Tallink in kitchen and domestic jobs. Others found work in the city.

Inna Aristova, 54, and her husband Hryhorii Akinzhely, 64, arrived in May after a long journey from Melitopol to sort sheets and towels at the laundry. They have been unable to find affordable apartments.

“I feel like a guest in this country,” Ms. Aristova said, “not at home.”

Tears filled her eyes. Her worst anxiety centers on her 21-year-old son, who is in the military. She didn’t know where he was just to be on the safe side, but they texted or talked as often as possible.

“He’s too young,” she said. “I think about him every day.” Ms. Shevchenko, who was translating, bent down to hug her.

At the Palace of Starlight, Ms. Kotsenko and several mothers and teenagers were making camouflage nets, cutting strips and securing them. When complete, the bunkers will be sent to the Kherson region in southeastern Ukraine to hide from tanks from Russian bombers.

Ms Kotsenko also did not know where her husband was stationed in Ukraine. She and her daughter fled the embattled city of Mykolaiv.

Another woman in the same city took out her phone and showed Mikolaf on the map. An animated burst of red appeared at the scene, indicating the intensity of the battle.

She had just received a long text message from a neighbor with a series of photos of people and dogs lying on the street, killed by Russian shells that morning.

Some of the women Shevchenko consulted told her they had decided to return to Ukraine. But, she said, “your dream of your own home” may not match reality.



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