independent

Sunday 18 November 2018

Syrian refugees in New Ross and Rosbercon for best tenancy option

Statement that refugees got Rosbercon houses that were already occupied 'totally wrong'

David Looby

The decision to locate Syrian families in Rosbercon has been defended by Kilkenny and Wexford county council officials.

Senior Housing Officer Martin Mullally outlined the Kilkenny resettlement programme in Rosbercon at a joint meeting of Piltown and New Ross municipal district councils.

Mr Mullally said Kilkenny County Council is due to house 140 refugees. The initial families were housed in Kilkenny City.

He said: 'The view was that they should be spread around the county. The approved housing body approached us and ten houses were offered in Rosbercon. We looked at housing four families but it was considered to be more suitable to house two families and not four.'

He said an inter-agency committee was established, as in other counties, to help put structures in place to support the families. 'At the end of the day we have ten houses available to us in this estate. We are nominating two Syrian families and we have four nominations for the New Ross area and four for the environs on the Rosbercon side.'

Around half of the families to be housed in County Kilkenny have been housed, Mr Mullally said, adding that an interpreter has been contacted and services have been put in place.

'Overall it has gone reasonably well. We have English language provision support structures and some have become very involved and very active in local sports and GAA clubs. Hopefully we will see them lining out as Kilkenny or Wexford hurlers one day,' he said.

Senior Housing Officer with Wexford County Council Padraig O'Gorman said County Wexford is more advanced with its resettlement programme than Kilkenny, saying the last seven families will be housed over the coming weeks.

He said 12 families comprising 25 adults and 41 children have been housed in New Ross, most of the children being of primary school going age and younger.

'We have four clusters in the county in New Ross, Gorey, Enniscorthy and Wexford. The New Ross cluster has closed and there won't be any more families.'

Mr O'Gorman said the Department of Justice has extended funding for the resettlement programme for next three months. He said one of the stand-out aspects of the resettlement programme has been the involvement of volunteers, facilitated by Doras Luminí, an organisation that supports Syrian refugees.

'The wives of Muslim doctors in Wexford General Hospital have helped mothers find where to buy spices and helped with homework clubs and in teaching the parents and children English. We got really good contacts through Doras Luminí. The integration of families into the community has gone really well.'

He said inter-agency groups had a lot of the work completed beforehand.

Cllr Michael Sheehan claimed that Kilkenny County Council acquired houses when people were already living in them only to be told in no uncertain terms that this would never happen and didn't happen.

'This is all about communication. At least out of courtesy to let us know this was happening in our area, but it seems to be working out quite well.'

Cllr Melissa O'Neill said the message that went out from Cllr Sheehan from the last meeting of the joint council was very totally wrong.

'We didn't buy any houses where people were living in them. There is a policy whereby we don't acquire houses and no person is made homeless through the acquisition of a home. We have a housing list of our own and we are well aware of the EU programme for paying for the (housing) acquisitions. They are two completely separate funds.'

She asked if the council has to pay for the houses only to be reimbursed months later through the funding mechanism and was told by Mr Mullally that this is the case.

The average spend on a three bed for the families is €120,000.

Mr O'Gorman said Wexford County Council has bought 12 properties.

Cathaoirleach of New Ross Municipal district Cllr John Fleming said nobody is being thrown out of their house, adding that it is a landlord's decision to ask a tenant to leave and not Kilkenny County Council's.

'They can be housed through any mechanism,' Mr O'Gorman said, adding that housing the refugees directly was the best and most secure option in terms of tenancy.

He said there are very special supports in place presently for the refugees, adding that once they are withdrawn the council will be back to only being able to provide local area housing officers and social workers if and when they are available.

'So it's important to get them settled and integrated into the community. There was a rumour that they were going to use relocation into Ireland to get access to the UK there is not one inkling of that. They want to get into training and jobs. They have been a pleasure to work with and are very house proud and appreciative of all of the services.'

Cllr Willie Fitzharris said another bonus has been that the council has been gaining properties.

Cllr O'Neill said some Kilkenny tenants are not happy about their houses. 'Do they go on a transfer list. Let's face it the issues are going to come and they are already there.'

Mr Mullally said the same rules apply for Syrian refugee families as they do for Irish families. 'If they are in a two-bed and the family has grown they will be considered. We have a clear transfer policy with strict conditions and they are no different.'

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