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'There's too many of them' - two rural towns voice concern over 'lack of services' ahead of arrival of asylum seekers

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Protest: People march in opposition to a direct provision centre in Oughterard, Co Galway

Protest: People march in opposition to a direct provision centre in Oughterard, Co Galway

Protest: People march in opposition to a direct provision centre in Oughterard, Co Galway

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

Locals in both Ballinamore, Co Leitrim and Borrisokane in Co Tipperary were told over the last couple of days that new direct provision centres will open in their communities 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 this Monday.

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

They have also questioned if additional services will be provided to their respective towns, both of which are rural and have populations of under 1,500.

Around 150 people attended a public meeting last night in Ballinamore where concerns were raised. However Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny insisted that the locals had concerns only over the number of asylum seekers which are expected to arrive, approximately 130.

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Sinn Fein TD Martin Kenny Picture: Tom Burke

Sinn Fein TD Martin Kenny Picture: Tom Burke

Sinn Fein TD Martin Kenny Picture: Tom Burke

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

"The people of Ballinamore are due credit, in that nobody made any racist or derogatory comments last night."

Mr Kenny said the area has had asylum seekers previously.

The direct provision centres in both towns will take shape 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 builds weren’t finished.

In recent months, separate developers have signed contracts with the Department of Justice to finish the builds and to turn them into direct provision centres.

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

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Jackie Cahill, Fianna Fail deputy for Tipperary at Leinster House

Jackie Cahill, Fianna Fail deputy for Tipperary at Leinster House

Jackie Cahill, Fianna Fail deputy for Tipperary at Leinster House

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

"And we welcome all that, but people in the community don’t believe it. All we can do is take people for their word," he said.

In Borrisokane in Tipperary, locals were informed on Wednesday that 16 families are due to arrive on Monday.

"There would have been rumours before that, but it was only on Wednesday that they got official confirmation," said Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill.

"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," he added.

"Locals are worried where will the services come from, if children start going to the school, will extra resources be put in to deal with that?

"The infrastructure is just not there to provide for so many people, there isn’t that many jobs and there’s concerns from the public," he added.

In a statement to Independent.ie, the Department of Justice and Equality said they are "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 (+53pc to date this year)."

"Because of a shortage of places in accommodation centres, there are now almost 1,500 people in emergency accommodation in hotels and guesthouses."

They said they are running a number of procurement processes to find additional accommodation to meet this demand.

Their search for accommodation is nationwide.

They added that they are working with "all relevant Government Departments including Education and Skills, Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Transport, Tourism and Sport, Health and with the HSE to ensure that any additional services that are needed are put in place in advance of the arrival of any residents to the centres".

"The Department is conscious that the general public will have questions about the new centres and is working to ensure information can be released as soon as possible," a spokesperson added.

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