Minister denies claim asylum seekers being ‘herded’ into hotels

Concern that moves to Wicklow, Roosky, Movile centres represent ‘legalised people trafficking’

The Government has been accused of “herding” asylum seekers into hotels and failing to consult local communities over the establishment of three new direct provision centres.

Concerns were raised in the Dáil about the centres to be opened in Wicklow town, Roosky on the Leitrim/Roscommon border, and Moville, Co Donegal.

Fianna Fáil Roscommon-Galway TD Eugene Murphy, who last week voiced concerns about the Roosky centre, described the moves as "herding people into hotels" and claimed it was "legalised people trafficking".

But Minister of State David Stanton rejected the claim and insisted that "nobody is herded anywhere. Asylum seekers are free to take up places or not, as they wish."


And he called on the Opposition to come up with a better system; “If anybody has a better way of doing this, please tell me what it is because I haven’t heard it to date.”

He said this year 3,500 applications for asylum were expected compared to 3,000 last year.

Mr Murphy said, “we know we have responsibilities to those people and that is not what I am questioning today. “There is a veil of secrecy around how this matter is being dealt with and it is not good enough. We must end direct provision.”

Contradictory policies

Fianna Fáil Wicklow TD Pat Casey highlighted contradictory Government policies. He said the Department of Justice was leasing the only hotel in Wicklow town, the Grand Hotel, to provide accommodation to up to 100 people including families.

But just a fortnight ago the Government launched the tourism strategy for Wicklow including setting up a task for the east coast greenery for Wicklow town.

He cited the programme for government commitment to reform the system with particular reference to families and children.

“How does leasing the only hotel in Wicklow town for direct provision contribute to these strategies,” he asked. “People in Wicklow town have not been consulted on this. Where is the joined-up thinking?”

Sinn Féin Wicklow TD, John Brady, claimed that “rather than trying to dismantle the shameful direct provision system, the Government is seeking to expand it”.

Community consultation

Fianna Fáil TD Charlie McConalogue called for the Taoiseach to ensure consultation with the local community in advance of any final decision to proceed with a 100-person reception centre in Moville, which has a population of 1,500.

He said it was wrong to make such an important decision “without involving the community that is being asked to welcome people in and to ensure they are well catered for”. He said there was an issue too over a 50-bed hotel being used to accommodate up to 100 people.

Insisting that nobody was herded anywhere, the Minister said asylum seekers were not obliged to take up the places which offered accommodation and food.

Mr Stanton added that 98 per cent of the 173 recommendations to improve accommodation systems had been fully or partially implemented.

He had heard no better ideas for an alternative to direct provision. “Asylum seekers are guaranteed a bed, a shower and food, tonight or when they come to Ireland in these accommodation centres.

“We don’t want people on the streets. That’s the alternative, unless deputies can come up with something better.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times