Refugees set to get pretty villas along Irish coast
Charity receives 500 pledges for houses, apartments and rooms
Achingly pretty holiday homes along the Wild Atlantic Way have been offered by their owners to house war-torn refugees, the Sunday Independent has learned.
Over the last month, private citizens, non-commercial organisations and church groups have pledged almost 600 offers of accommodation, services and goods to support those fleeing persecution in the Middle East.
The Irish Red Cross (IRC) said around 500 bids are for houses, apartments and single rooms.
Liam O'Dwyer, secretary general of the IRC, said: "The majority seem to be for whole properties and they tend to be in counties around the coast.
"We've received pledges for around 20 holiday homes in Kerry, Wexford, Galway, Clare and Dublin."
Details on the size of holiday homes and whether they have been promised by high-profile people are not available.
"We would gauge that they are for families, most applications are for full properties, not for sharing," said Mr O'Dwyer. "There is a lot of genuine concern among the Irish people, so far the response has been really positive," he said, adding that public offers are still welcome.
Meanwhile, counties Longford and Louth are also tipped to house the 4,000 refugees the Government has agreed to accept over the next two years.
Over the last 15 years almost 1,300 refugees - including Iraqis and Syrians - have been resettled in towns and communities throughout 21 counties nationwide.
However, 'programme refugees' haven't been placed in Galway, Donegal, Longford, Louth or Wexford.
Fewer than 10 have been resettled in Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Meath and Waterford since the Irish UNHCR-led resettlement programme began in 2000.
Although the Department of Justice said "no decision has been made on where those granted refugee status will be resettled", the Sunday Independent understands that counties not previously used will feature high on the list of potential places of settlement.
This weekend, a justice spokesperson said 240 refugees will be resettled in Cork and Kerry by the end of 2016.
Kerry County Council confirmed that 11 Syrian families will arrive in Tralee and Killarney before Christmas and 14-17 more will land in the new year. Cork expects an estimated 25 Syrian families.
John Breen, director of services for sustainable communities with Kerry County Council, said he assumes 'The Kingdom' was selected because they've never housed large numbers of refugees before.
"It's the first time for us and we are focused on our job of looking after the 11 initial families and their 19 children," he said.
"Once we get the model right, scale won't matter even if we're asked to take in 300 in the future," he said.
Mr Breen expects most will live in houses, not apartments, and they are considering purchasing, leasing and renting properties.
The local authority is working closely with Tralee International Resource Centre, Killarney Asylum Seeker Centre, gardai, HSE, education providers and community groups.
The families are currently staying at the refugee orientation centre in Monasterevin, Co Kildare. Many have qualifications and ran their own businesses in Syria.
"These are not people coming off rubber boats. They're coming from very difficult circumstances and it's hugely important that we get it right from day one," he said.