Mosney's international guests adjust to chalet life on the Co Meath coast

An information booklet for journalists on Mosney describes its location as "quiet, picturesque and relaxing"

An information booklet for journalists on Mosney describes its location as "quiet, picturesque and relaxing". But the latest guests at the former Butlins camp need no such hard sell for the Co Meath coastal site.

Mosney's gaily painted terraced chalets are now home to 311 asylum-seekers from 26 countries, less than half of them under 18. As a holiday camp, Mosney's entertainment was regimented, with karaoke nights and glamorous gran and lovely legs competitions. Its new guests have a different timetable, with house rules including signing an official register daily at reception - for fire safety purposes.

Residents are free to come and go through the camp's main gate, a mile from the Dublin-Belfast road. Their rule book says visitors are permitted only between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., that alcohol, drugs, prostitution and begging are forbidden and that security breaches will be logged in an incident book.

The swimming pool has been closed and its boating lake is out of bounds, but recreation facilities include an indoor football arena, pool and table tennis tables and a well-equipped and supervised children's play area. There is also a a mini-supermarket and a public health nurse.


The children attend local schools and evening entertainment events have been arranged. Meals and laundry facilities are provided and the asylum-seekers receive reduced social welfare payments of £15 per adult per week and £7.50 per child. Asylum-seekers are not allowed to work and adults are not entitled to State-provided language classes.

Residents praised the conditions and the staff but complained about feeling cut off and starved of information. "There's nothing to do here," a Romanian woman said. "Eat, relax. Even a holiday if it's too long it's not good."

Ms Colette Morey from the directorate for Asylum-Support Services says efforts are being made to counter such isolation. There is a regular rail service, a daily free return bus to Drogheda and voluntary support groups and churches are involved in planning activities including language and computer classes.

An adult return train fare to Dublin from Mosney costs £9. The directorate says it covers travel costs for official purposes, including medical appointments and visits to the Refugee Legal Service. The legal service's budget was recently increased and it may open an office in Mosney. One recently arrived asylum-seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo said it was "a luxury prison. You can't leave if you don't have the money. It's a 20 to 30-minute walk to the main road."

He did not wish to be identified and did not speak English. "You aren't told anything. You learn things through rumours. You have no knowledge of your rights," he said in French.

The centre's first asylum-seekers moved in last month, and Nigerians and Romanians together account for more than 40 per cent of residents. Mosney's neat modern three-bedroom chalets all have storage heating, fully equipped kitchens and televisions. Asylum-seekers can tune into their domestic TV stations provided by satellite and domestic newspapers downloaded from the internet are also available.

The Government has signed a five year multimillion-pound agreement with Mosney's owner, Mr Phelim McCloskey, to accommodate 500 people. The agreement is confidential, but accommodation providers receive between £22 and £27.50 per person per day.

Despite initial concerns that the annual National Community Games held at the camp would be threatened by the move, the organisation decided at its a.g.m. last weekend to continue using the site.

Mr McCloskey said many concerns expressed by locals were due to fears of the unknown. "We have shown that there are families here who just want to get on with their own lives and when people meet them and word goes back, it eases the fears," he said.