Roscommon refugee centre manager hopes for ‘happy place’

Jacqueline Mullen overwhelmed with offers of help from locals in Ballaghaderreen

The hotel site of the Emergency Reception & Orientation Centre (EROC) in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon. Photograph: Brian Farrell

The hotel site of the Emergency Reception & Orientation Centre (EROC) in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon. Photograph: Brian Farrell

 

The woman who will run the centre for more than 80 Syrian refugees in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, said she hopes it will be a sanctuary for those “making the transition from hell”.

Jacqueline Mullen, who has been appointed manager of the Emergency Reception & Orientation Centre (EROC) and who arrived in Ballaghaderreen just over a week ago, said recruitment has already started and she expects the staff will be “predominantly local” .

“There is a lot of work to do but it is a beautifully kitted out hotel and there are very few repairs needed,” said Ms Mullen, who has worked in hotel management for 30 years.

The EROC manager said she hopes to employ 15-20 local people who will work in a variety of roles including as commis chef, accommodation assistants, administration and security.

“People have been dropping in with CVs and we have started the recruitment process,” said Ms Mullen.

The manager said she had been overwhelmed by the offers of help from local groups and companies. “My phone has been going all the time. People have been calling in offering services and goods, everything from carpentry to toys. One company offered to fit out a play area for the small children.”

‘Good will’

Ms Mullen said there was “genuine good will” locally towards the Syrians and she said she had visited a number of other centres around the country to get an insight into what they would need.

“We know that heat will be very important for them. Wifi is another thing that they will need and we have been working on that,” she explained.

“We have got a very good chef because of course they will want a Halal diet, and we have organised that they will have transport to the mosque in Ballyhaunis every Friday.”

Ms Mullen said she had been struck by how warm the Syrian people were in all the centres she had visited around the country.

“They will be here for only a short period so we want to make sure it is a good experience,” she stressed. “We want to make sure it is a happy place because they are making a transition from hell. Since I arrived I have been struck by how friendly the people are in Ballaghaderreen and I think they are coming to a happy place.”

Department of Justice officials from the Irish Refugee Protection Programme are due to meet with local agencies in Roscommon this week to discuss preparations for the arrival early in March of the Syrian group, which includes 37 children.

Last week the department informed local Oireachtas members that the contract to run the EROC in Ballaghaderreen had gone to Next Week & Co which is based in Tullamore, Co Offaly.