Ballaghaderreen refugees complain of ‘lies’ about housing

Residents say coverage of Abbeyfield hotel does not present fair picture of what life is like

August 10th, 2017: A former food science lecturer from Syria was gifted a workshop shortly after he arrived in Ireland seven months ago and he has now almost completed his first violin.

 

Refugees living in the Ballaghaderreen reception centre in Co Roscommon have described their frustration and anger at the “lies” and “broken promises” they have been told about the waiting time for housing outside the centre.

Letters of complaint from residents at the centre, released under a Freedom of Information request, show that refugees who arrived from Greece and Lebanon under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) are spending much longer waiting for housing than originally anticipated. Residents also raised concerns around the quality of food at the centre and favouritism towards Syrians.

The Department of Justice confirmed in July that it would not renew its contract with the hotel housing the Ballaghaderreen centre which expires in December 2019 but would not specify the reasons for ending the agreement.

We have been here in the hotel in Ballaghaderreen for eight months and no one tells us the truth about when we are leaving

Refugees who come to Ireland under IRPP are housed in Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROCs) at the Abbeyfield Hotel in Ballaghaderreen, Hazel Hotel in Monasterevin and Clonea Strand in Dungarvan. Some IRPP refugees have also been housed in the Mosney direct provision centre in Co Meath.

One letter signed by 55 residents from the Ballaghaderreen centre claimed that media coverage of the centre has not offered “a fair picture of what life is like in the hotel”.

Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

“We have been here in the hotel in Ballaghaderreen for eight months and no one tells us the truth about when we are leaving,” states the letter, addressed to Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and dated November 2017. “We have been told a lot of lies and we have had enough of the broken promises.

‘Like a jail’

“We would like to know when we will leave the hotel. All we want to know is when we will move so we can start our lives again and get ready in our minds so we can work or continue education. We really thank Ireland for taking us but it is very hard to live in a hotel for a long time, it is like a jail sometimes.”

Another letter sent to Mr Flanagan late last year highlights the 'inefficiency of chefs' and 'poor cleanliness' in the kitchen

A complaint form filled out by a Tusla support worker on behalf of a Ballaghaderreen centre resident in June 2018 warns of a risk of infection at the centre and poor standards of education. The form notes that food in the centre “can be poor” and does not meet a family member’s dietary requirements while there has been a “huge delay and uncertainty in relation to being re-housed”.

Another letter sent to Mr Flanagan late last year highlights the “inefficiency of chefs” and “poor cleanliness” in the kitchen. It writes that food was not well cooked and that there was special treatment for Syrians working in the kitchen. One disagreement caused someone to “hit the chef because of the food”.

Email correspondence, also released under FOI, shows that an IRPP official responded to the complaints by contacting the manager of the Ballaghaderreen centre requesting that she send documents on mealtimes and snack times “as a matter of urgency”. The IRPP official added that she had already raised the issue around favouritism at an earlier date.

Actions

A statement from the Department of Justice said the company contracted to deliver services at the Ballaghaderreen centre had taken “a number of actions” to resolve the matters raised. “An interagency group overseeing the delivery of services at the EROC was told today that the EROC is operating well,” said the statement, adding that the IRPP would continue to monitor the situation through regular visits by management to the centre.

Refugees currently living in the Ballaghaderreen centre have spent an average of one year (364 days) waiting to be rehoused. The average wait for refugees in Clonea Strand is more than 24 weeks (172 days) and in Mosney it is more than 52 weeks (366 days). The Hazel hotel was recently closed and no longer functions as an EROC.

There are 132 people – mainly Syrian – living in the Ballaghaderreen centre including 60 children. Six children were born in Ireland after their parents arrived in the State.

At present a total of 344 people live in EROCs across the country.