Bishops condemn arson attacks on asylum seeker hotel

Advocacy group warns overcrowding in direct provision centres affecting mental health

Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran:  called for dialogue to ensure “the best possible outcome, both for refugees and for the local community”. Photograph: John McElroy/PA Wire

Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran: called for dialogue to ensure “the best possible outcome, both for refugees and for the local community”. Photograph: John McElroy/PA Wire

 

Two arson attacks on a hotel in Co Roscommon that is due to house asylum-seekers are “not consistent with the Gospel”, two Catholic bishops have declared.

The fires at the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey “have caused significant upset to parishioners on both sides of the River Shannon”, said Bishop of Ardagh Francis Duffy and Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran.

“Every civilised society is bound under international law to provide shelter for refugees,” they said, adding that the Catholic Church has frequently complained about standards in Ireland’s direct provision centres.

“Refugees need their own personal and family space. They also need to be supported in becoming part of the wider community in which they live,” they said, adding that many locals want to welcome and offer support to refugees.

However, extra health and education services must be put in place to ensure “the wellbeing of local communities” and to take care of those “who have lost everything”.

Speaking ahead of a demonstration in Rooskey on Sunday in support of the refugees, Bishop Duffy and Bishop Doran called for dialogue to ensure “the best possible outcome, both for refugees and for the local community”.

Overcrowding

Meanwhile, the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland has warned that overcrowding in direct provision centres is damaging the mental health of asylum seekers.

The warning came following a Department of Justice report that highlighted the shortage of beds, overcrowded rooms and rising tensions between asylum seekers, and with staff at the centres.

You lose your identity because you are just housed and fed. You have no choices

South African-born Lucky Khambule, who spent four years in centres in Cork and Kinsale, said asylum-seekers are essentially deprived of their freedom , adding to the physical difficulties they faced.

His own experience stripped him of his sense of self, his sense of self-worth, and personal dignity: “You lose your identity because you are just housed and fed. You have no choices,” he declared.

Residents have frequently complained about conditions. In one Facebook post shared on the Movement’s page, a 14-year-old boy, Waleed, tells of life in a hotel room with his parents and younger brother.

“I feel I can’t tell my friends where I live,” he says. “Even if they come over, they’re not allowed come to my room. I’ve nowhere to play.” In the room, his mother and father sleep on a mattress on the floor.

‘Fighting’

He, along with his two younger brothers, sleep on surrounding beds. “I just did my Junior Certificate. It was really hard for me because I wasn’t able to study properly – because my brothers are fighting and disturbing me all the time.”

The Movement of Asylum Seekers has also expressed concern for vulnerable people including members of the LGBTi+ community in direct provision centres.

In one case in Galway, an LGBT+ woman who applied for protection died in a direct provision centre accommodating men because the State “did not accept her as a woman”, said the Movement.

“It is demoralising to flee persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, only to be subjected to the same bigotry in your chosen place of sanctuary,” it went on.