Shatter defers closure of Galway asylum-seeker centre

Thu, Sep 13, 2012, 01:00

MINISTER FOR Justice Alan Shatter has deferred closure of Galway’s largest asylum-seeker accommodation centre until he has reviewed the reason for the decision.

No transfers of up to 270 asylum seekers and their families will take place, pending the outcome of Mr Shatter’s review, his department has told The Irish Times.

Last week the residents of the centre at Lisburn House, formerly the Ibis Hotel, were told of the closure after many of their children had already started a new school term.

Several protests have taken place this week outside the hostel in support of the residents, a large number of whom have been depending on direct provision for up to four years due to delays in handling asylum applications.

Most of the residents are from a number of African states, along with Kosovo, Chechnya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Middle East and South America, and have integrated into the local community.

Children have been attending a local national school, while older students are taking Junior and Leaving Certificate exams this year. Some families had already been moved up to nine times to various locations across the State.

Labour Galway West TD Derek Nolan had appealed to Mr Shatter to intervene, and had described the timing of the closure as a “terrible way to treat people”.

“That these children must now move to a location they do not know and at such a sensitive time for them, shows no regard for their welfare or education,” Mr Nolan said in a letter to the Minister.

Mr Shatter said he was “considering the background circumstances relating to the decision to close the Lisburn asylum-seeker accommodation centre in the light of representations received” by him. He said he also had to bear in mind the need for the Reception and Integration Agency, which is responsible for asylum accommodation, to “manage its diminishing budget efficiently in the context of the current critical budgetary situation.”

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Féin) welcomed Mr Shatter’s decision, and said he had also made representations to Mr Shatter’s department and to the agency. “Unfortunately this latest announcement offers no security of tenure for the residents involved,” he said, and added that a rally would go ahead in Galway’s Eyre Square on Saturday.