Alternative to direct provision is ‘camps, containers’ Varadkar warns

Worry in Dáil about message Oughterard decision sends out after Rooskey, Moville

People gather outside the former Connemara Gateway Hotel after a    silent protest march  earlier this month. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

People gather outside the former Connemara Gateway Hotel after a silent protest march earlier this month. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

 

The alternative to direct provision for asylum seekers is to house them in camps and containers like in France, Germany and other EU states, the Taoiseach has warned.

Leo Varadkar was responding to concerns raised in the Dáil on Tuesday about the withdrawal of a tender in the Co Galway town of Oughterard for a centre in a former hotel.

Mr Varadkar said he shared the concerns of Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O’Loughlin who said the decision to withdraw the tender was particularly worrying, following the arson attacks on other proposed centres in Moville, Co Donegal and Rooskey, Co Roscommon.

The party’s junior spokeswoman on immigration and integration, Ms O’Loughlin said “I am really worried about the message that is going from Ireland now in relation to the last three centres that have been looked at”.

She acknowledged that the direct provision system was far from ideal but now “it is what we have on offer for our asylum seekers and refugees”.

Mr Varadkar said “the sad reality is that the alternative to direct provision is what happens in France and Germany and Greece and Italy, which is camps and containers. And I hope we never get to that point here in Ireland.”

Plans to accommodate asylum seekers in a former hotel in Oughterard have been abandoned following protests. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.
Plans to accommodate asylum seekers in a former hotel in Oughterard have been abandoned following protests. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

The Taoiseach added that “part of the solution is proper consultation with communities. That is important and has worked in places all over the country.”

But he added that they could not provide every asylum seeker with a house or apartment and no other country could either.

“We also need people to understand better what direct provision really is”, because he believed they had a misunderstanding about it.

“It’s not compulsory and you can leave at any time. You don’t need to sign in and sign out. Many asylum seekers work, find their own accommodation, many stay with friends and relatives.

“It is accommodation... board and food and it’s spending money as well.”

There have been protests for over two weeks in Oughterard over plans to develop an accommodation centre for asylum seekers at the former Connemara Gateway hotel on the outskirts of the town.

On Tuesday it emerged the developer of the hotel had withdrawn his tender for the project and would not be proceeding with the proposed centre.

The decision by Sean Lyons, owner of the Fazyard Limited company, to halt the development has been welcomed in Oughterard but the Department of Justice has expressed disappointment at the move.

The Department of Justice had been in negotiations with Fazyard about a tender to open a centre to house “less than 250 people” in the town.