Closure of asylum seeker centre criticised


SEVERAL HUNDRED asylum seekers and their children in Galway face an uncertain future due to the sudden closure of their accommodation centre in the city.

The Department of Justice has confirmed up to 300 families are to be relocated from Lisbrook centre, formerly the Ibis Hotel, as part of an “ongoing consolidation” of accommodation for asylum seekers across the State.

More than 80 per cent of the residents of various nationalities have been in direct provision accommodation for more than four years.

They have become part of the local community in the Tirellan area of the city, and their children have been attending local schools.

Residents who said they were too frightened to have their names quoted told The Irish Times the decision was causing “serious trauma”, as some families had already spent time in up to eight direct provision centres before Lisbrook. “Our children have already started back to school, they have books and uniforms and have formed friendships, and now their parents don’t know where they will be going,”one resident said.

Labour TD for Galway West Derek Nolan said yesterday it was a “terrible way to treat people”, and that he would today contact the Department of Justice and the Reception and Integration Agency, which is responsible for direct provision accommodation.

“Children from Lisbrook have integrated well in Tirellan National School, and the idea of closing a hostel in mid-September shows no consideration for lives and families,” Mr Nolan said. “I intend to find out what is happening, and why.”

Individual asylum seekers received letters from the agency late last week informing them of the closure. “As you will know yourself, the centre has provided a quality service to asylum seekers for many years,” it said. “But the centre has to close because of the continuing decline in the overall numbers of asylum seekers in direct provision accommodation.”

It said it would contact families and individuals “in the coming weeks” to explain arrangements for relocation to alternative accommodation centres. Arrangements would be made to place children in school “in their new locations”.

The agency said it regretted the “inconvenience caused”.

The Department of Justice said the agency was accommodating some 5,423 asylum seekers at the start of 2011, which had “reduced” to 4,989 people – a decline of 8 per cent – as of August 26th, 2012.

This decline was part of a “continuing trend”, and the agency had reduced its accommodation portfolio from 60 centres to 37 since 2009 “to address this”.