Asylum industry has become a cash cow for big business
Private hostel owners have been the real beneficiaries of direct provision system
Asylum seeker accommodation in Athlone, Co Weatmeath: today, many of the companies providing shelter are large firms involved in the property, hospitality or catering business
It was introduced as a way of ensuring the needs of vulnerable asylum seekers would be met. But private hostel owners, rather than asylum seekers, have been the real beneficiaries of the direct provision system.
In April 2000 the State decided to pay private contractors to provide accommodation for newly arrived asylum seekers in hostels, hotels, convents, B&Bs and mobile homes.
It was supposed to be a temporary solution. Instead, thousands of asylum seekers have spent years in a system in which they are unable to work or access further education.
Unpublished inspection reports into some of these centres provide a dismal snapshot of a system which shows evidence of overcrowding, poor fire safety practices and lapses in hygiene levels.
In all, the State has given almost €800 million to private firms for the provision of accommodation. All firms are contractually required to comply with legal requirements in relation to health, safety and food hygiene.
Today, many of the companies providing shelter are large firms involved in the property, hospitality or catering business.
Some have moved to re-register themselves as private unlimited companies in recent years, which means they have no obligation to file accounts. This shields their financial affairs from public scrutiny.
Declined to comment
Any firms contacted by The Irish Times have declined to comment. They are contractually required to direct all media inquiries to the Reception and Integration Agency.
The agency said all companies were required to go through a tendering process and were contractually obliged to have valid, current tax clearance certificates. It said it could not provide details of individual contracts for commercial reasons.
However, it is possible to piece together how much individual firms have received from the Department of Justice through purchase orders and other official documents since the direct provision system began.
The biggest recipient is Mosney – formerly known as Mosney Holidays – which has been paid about €101 million for accommodating asylum seekers at the former Butlin’s holiday resort in Co Meath.
It became an unlimited company in 2012 and the firm’s shareholders include Louth businessman Phelim McCloskey and El Molino Hotels Ltd, Drogheda, Co Louth.
El Molino – whose secretary is Mr McCloskey – in turn, has two shareholders, the Isle of Man-based Sonning Unlimited, and Tymon Company Secretaries Ltd.