Asylum seekers who had objected to being moved from a Wexford hotel by the State's Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) left quietly on Thursday afternoon following an emotional farewell from local supporters.
The 17 single men and women have been moved to emergency accommodation centres to Co Wicklow and Co Clare to free up space in the Courtown Hotel which is deemed more suitable for families with children.
It is understood the residents agreed to leave after receiving written confirmation on Wednesday from RIA that this would be their last short term move before being settled in a longer term direct provision centre.
Twenty-two men and women living in the Courtown emergency accommodation centre were informed last weekend that they would be relocated to different parts of the country.
Seventeen of these refused to leave on Monday when a bus arrived to pick them up, saying they had put down roots, built friendships and got involved in the local Tidy Town committee, sports clubs, churches and other local events .The group told RIA representatives they would only move if they were brought to long-term accommodation.
"It's obvious that they do feel at home here, so this has really been unsettling for them. It's a hard day, but we think it's for the best for them as RIA have promised that their next move will be to more permanent accommodation in centres," said Lauren Brennan of Courtown Refugee Support.
Saying it would make all efforts to help any new asylum seekers that come to the town, the Courtown Refugee Support group said it intended to keep in touch with the departed men and women.
“It has been hectic time for us,” said Ms Brennan, “We hope that the asylum seekers that we have made friends with will have a chance now to get out of direct provision.”
Local concerns have been raised around the number of primary and secondary school places available for children in the centre. Earlier this year a petition was submitted to the Minister for Education on behalf of parents in north Wexford calling for a new secondary school in the Riverchapel and Courtown area.
Wexford County Council said in July that it had a site available for the new school but was awaiting permission from the Department of Education to move ahead with the project to meet the growing demand for school places.
The RIA has said it is making “every possible effort” to provide accommodation to families that is suitable to their needs and within the emergency accommodation portfolio.
A RIA spokesperson said there was “a continuous inflow” of new arrivals, adding that it was “actively working” to reduce its need for emergency accommodation in places such as hotels. It plans to open “new dedicated accommodation centres” in the coming months.
“The accommodation system is under immense strain and as such, moves are sometimes a regrettable but a necessary feature of RIA’s management of its accommodation portfolio.”
One thousand and sixty-eight asylum seekers are currently living in 30 emergency centres, including 177 children. In December 2018, there were 210 people sleeping in emergency beds.
Beside those in emergency accommodation, there are 6,033 people living in direct provision centres, including 780 people already granted refugee status or permission to remain unable to secure housing.