Monday 26 August 2019

Asylum seekers moved despite objections

Relocation of asylum seekers from emergency accommodation at the Courtown Hotel
Relocation of asylum seekers from emergency accommodation at the Courtown Hotel

Cathy Lee

Following a peaceful protest organised by local people last week at the Courtown Hotel emergency accommodation centre that aimed to see resident asylum seekers remain in Courtown, officials have taken action and stepped in to relocate about 20 single people from the hotel.

'Approximately 20 individuals will be re-accommodated. To protect the privacy and identity of individuals, as required by law, we cannot disclose where they will be re-accommodated,' a spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Equality said.

Local people that are involved in the Courtown Refugee Support group gathered at the hotel to say their goodbyes to the asylum seekers that will be moved, and in an emotional farewell spoke about the bond that has been created with them since they first came to Courtown in May.

'It's obvious that they do feel at home here, so this last week has really been unsettling for them. It's a hard day, but we think it's for the best for them as RIA have promised that their next move will be to more permanent accommodation in centres,' said Lauren Brennan of Courtown Refugee Support.

The spokesperson said that letters informing the residents of their new accommodation were issued to them on Thursday, July 25.

'In this instance, the residents in question declined the offer of accommodation being made by RIA. International protection applicants are under no obligation to accept the offer of accommodation and related services which are provided by RIA, but equally, under regulations, RIA may need to relocate residents on occasion. This is something RIA endeavours to do as infrequently as possible, but with the accommodation system under considerable strain, it is sometimes necessary,' they said.

Residents have since been informed that this will be their final move prior to moving to a RIA accommodation centre.

This decision was taken by the Department in order to meet its 'special obligations' towards children who are living in direct provision centres or in emergency accommodation.

'RIA has a continuous inflow of new international protection applicants, many of these applicants are families with children. It has special obligations when children are in the protection process and are residing in the accommodation provided. To the greatest extent possible, every effort is made to provide accommodation to families that is suitable for their needs within the limited emergency accommodation portfolio'.

'The approximately 20 individuals in question are being re-accommodated in emergency accommodation as their current location was identified by RIA as being more suitable for children and families, for reasons including ease of access to educational facilities. This will allow RIA to better meet the needs of families and in particular, the social and educational needs of children,' the spokesperson said.

'RIA is actively working to reduce its reliance on emergency accommodation and in the coming months, plans to open new dedicated accommodation centres nationwide. A public procurement process is ongoing in this regard and the accommodation system is under immense strain and as such, moves are sometimes a regrettable but a necessary feature of RIA's management of its accommodation portfolio,' the spokesperson said.

During their time in Courtown, the asylum seekers in question had gotten involved with community social clubs, churches and sports clubs as well as the Tidy Towns.

Courtown Refugee Support said that it plans to do everything it possibly can to integrate any new asylum seekers, whether they are families or children and that its members will also be keeping in touch with those who have now left.

'It has been hectic time for us, especially as it has just been one thing after another over the last week. It's important to focus on the positive in the long run, and we hope that the asylum seekers that we have made friends with will have a chance now to get out of direct provision in this country going forward,' said Lauren Brennan.

Gorey Guardian