Ballaghaderreen hotel chosen as ‘no alternatives’ available
Syrian asylum seekers: Government document says property was only one suitable
Main Street, Ballaghaderreen. According to the document the fact that the town’s Abbeyfield Hotel would be ready in “reasonable time” was one reason it was chosen for the centre. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
The hotel in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, where 80 mostly Syrian asylum seekers are to be housed, was chosen because it was the only property that meets the necessary requirements, according to a Government briefing document seen by The Irish Times.
Roscommon County Council members were informed by text message and email on Thursday that the Abbeyfield Hotel, which has been restored recently, had been selected to house the asylum seekers, who are currently resident in Italy and Greece.
At a meeting on Friday, officials from the Department of Justice presented councillors with a briefing document which outlined the reasons why the hotel in the town of Ballaghaderreen was selected for the “emergency reception and orientation centre”.
“The property at Ballaghaderreen was selected because it was only one available that met requirements and would be ready in reasonable time,” said the document.
The document outlined that while the initial selection of a suitable centre is to a large degree influenced by the availability of suitable properties, consideration is also given to a number of factors.
These included the accommodation capacity of the property; its potential for on-site services; the potential availability of school placements for children; the availability of GPs within reasonable travelling distance; and the proximity of local hospitals.
Other factors considered included the experience of the location in welcoming asylum seekers previously; the availability of local services such as public transport and shopping facilities; the potential for centre managers to provide additional services to both residents and the local population; and the potential benefits to local commerce.
However, the document goes on to say that while the considerations listed above “were not ignored”, no alternatives presented themselves when it came to meeting the “immediate demand” for an emergency centre.
“Ballaghaderreen is quite centrally placed in Roscommon and many primary and secondary schools are within reasonable bussing distance,” it said. “There is a hospital in Roscommon Town and Ballaghaderreen itself has experience in welcoming asylum seekers and refugees to its community.
“Migrants arriving are expected to reside in emergency accommodation for a minimum of six months while awaiting determination on their refugee status, and while awaiting a suitable permanent housing solution to be identified for them.”
The document added that permanent housing solutions involve a nationwide strategy, and so there will only be a “limited possibility” that residents at the centre will remain in the community if they are given full refugee status.
The value of the contract to house the asylum seekers could not be disclosed due to “commercial sensitivity”, but the document said there would be “not insignificant local benefits” arising from the centre, such as increased employment and the necessity for local services such as food and supplies.
John Roycroft, programme director with the Irish Refugee Protection programme, said on Friday the group was “essentially destitute” and would arrive with nothing more than” the clothes their backs”.
It is intended that the group will get an opportunity to acclimatise at the centre, as well as attend English language classes and other services.