Sex and drugs for sale at Mosney
Some residents of the former Butlin's holiday camp are supplementing their benefits, says Jimmy Guerin
THE chalets that were once used by holidaymakers at Mosney, Co Meath now house some 750 refugees and asylum-seekers.
Where once there were redcoats to provide entertainment, there are now security guards to give directions to the food halls.
Mosney has now been turned into one of the largest, privately-owned refugee centres in Europe. The owners are the real beneficiaries in the arrangement with the Department of Justice.
The owners of Mosney PLC, in which the majority of shares are controlled by hotelier Phelim McCloskey and his wife Elizabeth, have seen their tariff income jump from ?2.4m in 1998 to ?7m in 2002.
They have built 119 new apartments and have converted what were once games rooms to catering halls and homework rooms.
Dan Lowry's, the famous Mosney Pub where almost all the big names in Irish show-business played at one time, is now a place of worship for the many different religions of the residents. Workmen are busy converting old chalets and Mosney will soon be able to cater for twice the existing number of refugees.
The future is bright for the owners of the camp who can expect profits of many millions each year as long as immigration continues.
The camp is well-run, indeed it is run with great precision. General conditions and food looked very adequate.
A lot has changed since its Butlin's days. It no longer looks like a place where thousands of Irish people enjoyed their summer holidays before the advent of cheap flights. However, while surrounded by an austere-looking fence, it is far from being a prison camp. Residents are more or less allowed to come and go as they please.
In researching this article, I spent three days at Mosney. I had to advise security when I entered and when I left the camp.
The three days revealed that some women were engaged in prostitution while others were involved in crime including drug dealing.Most of the people I met in Mosney claim they paid human traffickers large sums of money to assist them in fleeing their own country in the hope of finding a better and sometimes safer lifeelsewhere.
As each asylum-seeker and refugee arrives, they are advised to apply for a medical card, to which they are entitled. They also receive clothing allowances and other payments which are funded by the local health board.
Of the 11 families I interviewed at the camp, all had a baby under 12 months of age and most made it clear that their youngest child was an Irish citizen.
The day the mothers leave the hospital, they collect top-of-the-range buggies, child seats and other equipment needed for a new born baby.
Ten of the families were headed by single parents who had fled their own country. Many hope that theirhusbands will join them here soon.
It is obvious that they are frustrated and annoyed.
"The sooner I get out of this prison and am given my own house the better," said one woman who has two children and has spent 11 months in Mosney. Her application for refugee status has yet to be considered.
A lot of the residents refer to Mosney as a prison.
One young woman from the Ukraine had to flee her country because she married a Nigerian man. Her father wanted her dead because she married a black man who had different religious beliefs and he arranged for locals to carry out her murder.
She is a graduate and taught literature before she had to flee her country. She wants to teach in Ireland, but after a year her asylum application has not been dealt with yet.
She has a nine-month-old baby, and speaks to her husband every three months. Like most of the residents, she has a mobile phone and he can contact her on that.
Another woman I met from Moldova is here with her husband. He is working in the building trade in Galway. She admitted he has no permit and added: "That is why he works for a small wage."
She went on to explain that many men and women work in various jobs without permits and the people who get them the work know they do not have work permits.
Another woman seeking asylum is a young widow who left Kenya after her husband was killed in a car crash. When he died, her in-laws blamed her for his death and vowed to kill her and take her children. She had no protection as she was from a different tribe. She has been here for a year and she has a six-month-old child.
As I walked along the rows of chalets, a man called me and asked if I was writing a story on Mosney.
He wanted to talk. He told me he was Nigerian and became irate, like a man waiting for a fix: "You write this in your fu***ng paper, we are only treated like s**t because we are black."
He refused to give me his name and then added: "They feed us s**t, I won't eat it, my children eat it, but I won't. The fu**ing place is like a prison and they give us f**k-all money."
Looking around his large chalet, I noticed that he had added many modern comforts to his temporary home.
While he was shouting about his life and how difficult it was, to my amazement he took what looked like ?1,000 from a drawer, placed it in his pocket and left, calling back: "Print what I said in your fu**ing paper."
As I left his chalet, one woman from the Congo told me: "Don't mind him - he sells drugs on the site and also in the town, he is a trouble-maker, be careful of him."
In one of the newer chalets I met two ladies who seemed to share the accommodation. As one smoked a joint, she explained to me that she had been refused her application for refugee status but was now going to appeal.
This process could take another 12 months. They complained that they were not given enough financial assistance, yet when I asked how they could afford the wine (four bottles on a shelf beside the sink) and the joints, they said some of the girls worked some nights in town to earn extra money.
I asked if they had permits and they laughed, saying they did not need permits for the kind of work they did.