Locals voice concern over two new direct provision centres

Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny. Picture: Tom Burke

Gabija Gataveckaite

Residents in two rural towns have raised concerns over a lack of community services as more than 200 asylum seekers are set to arrive in their areas.

Locals in both Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, and Borrisokane, Co Tipperary, were told in recent days that new direct provision centres will open in the coming weeks.

Ballinamore will see 130 people move into the area in the next two to three weeks, while approximately 75 people will arrive in Borrisokane on Monday.

Communities in both towns have raised concerns over the lack of communication from the Department of Justice.

They have also questioned whether additional services would be provided for their respective towns, both of which have populations of fewer than 1,500.

About 150 people attended a public meeting on Wednesday in Ballinamore where concerns were raised. However, Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny insisted the locals had concerns only over the number of asylum seekers who were expected to arrive.

"It doesn't matter if people are coming from Dublin or Mars, there's just too many of them," he told the Irish Independent.

The direct provision centres in both towns will be in the form of apartments, where families will have access to their own cooking facilities and privacy.

In both towns, construction of the apartment blocks began during the boom and the buildings weren't finished.

In recent months, separate developers have signed contracts with the Department of Justice to finish the builds.

"People are worried about the lack of services to provide for so many people - doctors, schools and childcare," said Mr Kenny.

"The developer has promised to build a medical practice within the centre and has said that he's working with the department to ensure adequate supports."

In Borrisokane, locals were told on Wednesday that 16 families were due to arrive on Monday.

"Borrisokane is a very small town, it has issues with no services and no transport. The infrastructure isn't there to cater for so many people," said Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill.

In a statement, the Department of Justice and Equality said it was "working to secure new accommodation centres for international protection applicants, as the number of people arriving to seek protection in the State continues to rise".