Monday 17 June 2019

Mixed response to asylum seekers in Courtown Hotel

Courtown Hotel is now being used temporarily as emergency accommodation for asylum seekers
Courtown Hotel is now being used temporarily as emergency accommodation for asylum seekers

Cathy Lee

After a number of asylum seekers arrived by bus to Courtown Hotel on Friday, having been relocated on a temporary basis from other centres, such as the Esplanade Hotel in Bray, county Wicklow, there has been a mixed response from local people.

'We have not opened a new direct provision centre, rather emergency accommodation has been sourced to deal with capacity issues that have arisen due to growing demands while we are waiting for new centres to come on stream,' the Department of Justice and Equality said in a statement to this newspaper.

'The provision of emergency accommodation will be for as short a time as possible, unfortunately it is not possible to say how long this might be,' the statement read.

Following a response from the Department to Wexford County Council, the department confirmed that about 30 persons were transferred to the hotel in Courtown last Friday, and that they are all asylum seekers, and are from a range of different nationalities.

They comprise single adults, families and a small number of children.

The Department advised that such short term temporary letting arrangements are usually for a period of up to six months and that it hoped that the coming on stream of a Direct Provision Centre this summer, will lead to the accommodation in Courtown not being required beyond that time period.

The Department is conducting an open procurement process, with the hope of more centres being able to increase capacity in the coming months.

As the Department are under a legal duty to protect the identity and privacy rights of those involved, the Department are not in a position to confirm how many asylum seekers may be moved to Courtown now or into the future.

'We're not against asylum seekers or refugees, but Courtown is a sea side resort and they'd be better suited to a big built up area like Wexford or Waterford,' said Cllr Ireton.

'Questions need to be answered, because people weren't informed in advance,' said Cllr Ireton.

Speaking to Lucky Khambule of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) who visited Courtown on Sunday, he spoke of one couple who had not wanted to move there, but didn't have any choice.

'They had been based in Waterford and had already integrated there, they had work permits and could work part time, they didn't want to move,' said Lucky Khambule.

'It looks like nobody considered that, because the move was sudden and people are upset,' said Lucky Khambule.

Wexford County Council confirmed that it had no prior knowledge of the move, and had not been consulted on the matter.

'We had no knowledge and were uninformed about the situation,' said a representative of Wexford County Council, who later contacted the Department.

Asylum seekers were told in a letter two days before the move that they would be transported to the new emergency accommodation by bus, and to ensure that they had all belongings with them.

'My worry is that they're going to be walking the streets with nowhere to go,' said Joy Rice of Courtown Community Council.

An emergency public meeting aimed at finding a way forward on the matter was due to take place this week, but was cancelled by Courtown Community Council due to a large volume of numbers expected, outside the remit of the capacity of the Riverchapel Community Hall.

Courtown Community Council said that it was with regret that the meeting was cancelled, but it was 'due to health and safety reasons for all'.

There had been a lot of interest in the public meeting, and local political representation had been contacted and asked to attend.

Representatives of the Department of Justice and Equality were also invited to attend the meeting.

'We recognise that these asylum seekers have faced many challenges in their journey up to this point and that their future remains uncertain. The Courtown Community Council has asked that a meeting of the Courtown Local Policing Fora be held at the earliest opportunity so that all the agencies involved together with the community representatives can discuss how to work with the hotel residents so that this development is positive for everyone and shows that Courtown and Riverchapel is a safe and welcoming place for all,' Courtown Community Council said in a statement.

Gorey Guardian