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Courtown community 'not consulted' over decision to move Direct Provision residents to local hotel

Locals have claimed a hotel in the town will be used as a permanent centre for four years.

Courtown. Courtown, Co Wexford Source: Shutterstock/Paul Behan

RESIDENTS OF COURTOWN in Co Wexford have said they were not consulted about a local hotel being used to accommodate asylum seekers and have raised concerns about the level of service provision available nearby. 

On Friday, around 20 people were relocated from a hotel in Bray to the small seaside town near Gorey. The Department of Justice & Equality confirmed to TheJournal.ie that the hotel is only being used on a temporary basis. 

Courtown Community Council – a group made up of community groups – called a meeting for Wednesday evening to discuss the matter, the group said on its Facebook page. But the meeting has since been cancelled due to “health and safety” concerns, the group added. 

Despite claims by the group that the local hotel will be used as a Direct Provision centre for four years, the department confirmed to TheJournal.ie that the hotel is being used on a temporary basis as emergency accommodation. 

According to local Sinn Féin councillor Fionntán Ó Suilleabháin, the meeting’s cancellation “appears to have caused a lot of frustration for many who are still demanding answers and who fear that the arrangement could become long-term and expanded”. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice & Equality has said that the local hotel is not a permanent Direct Provision centre “rather emergency accommodation has been sourced to deal with capacity issues that have arisen due to growing demands while we are waiting for new [Direct Provision] centres to come on stream.”

Contracts for emergency accommodation run for 24 weeks.

‘Quickly address’

Since September, the Department of Justice & Equality has accommodated people in hotels and B&Bs around the country due to pressure on its services. 

Increased pressure on the Reception & Integration Agency (RIA) – which is responsible for overseeing the Department’s accommodation portfolio and providing initial services for asylum seekers and refugees entering Ireland – has meant sourcing emergency set-ups since last year. 

With Ireland’s Direct Provision centres largely at capacity, there are currently over 500 people living in 19 hotels and B&Bs in eight counties – including 86 children. 

Campaigners and NGOs have criticised the instability of locating asylum seekers in hotels and B&Bs in remote areas, raising concerns about the increase of people living in emergency setups. 

RIA had planned to accommodate people in more permanent Direct Provision centres but that it has not been possible following recent fires at hotels in Moville, Co Donegal and Rooskey on the Roscommon-Leitrim border.

Since September, the department has spent over €6 million sourcing and contracting private premises to accommodate people.

‘Views are mixed’

Local representatives have said the Courtown community should have been consulted before the hotel started accommodating people seeking international protection last week.

Local Labour councillor Robert Ireton told TheJournal.ie that “no one was told anything” about people being accommodated in the town since last Friday.

“There’s no problem with accommodating asylum seekers….but to go about it the wrong way, the trust is broken down.” says Ireton, who said that councillors should have at least been told. 

The situation is similar to Hotel Rosslare in Co Wexford which, in December, temporarily accommodated 17 asylum seekers prompting concerns locally that it was being set up as a permanent centre. 

“The Department is going about this in the worst possible way,” says Ó Suilleabháin, “by not consulting with local people, public representatives nor agencies”. 

“Views are mixed locally with many deeply concerned and many others wanting to support the families through donations,” he said. 

A spokesperson for the department said that “the provision of emergency accommodation will be for as short a time as possible.”

“Considerable work is ongoing to ensure residents in emergency accommodation are moved to accommodation centres as soon as space appropriate to a resident’s needs becomes available in accommodation centres provided by RIA.”

According to the spokesperson, “RIA is making every effort to secure sufficient capacity to meet the demand and to remove the need for international protection applicants to be placed in emergency hotels”. 

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