Frustrated refugees describe centre as a 'jail'

Thursday, 11th October, 2018 2:38pm

Frustrated refugees describe centre as a 'jail'

File photo: Abbeyfield Hotel. Image from Google Maps

MORE than 50 Ballaghaderreen-based refugees have compared life in the Abbeyfield Hotel to a 'jail', writes Claire McNamara.

In a formal complaint to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, they stated they are 'very frustrated and angry about a lot of things' in the hotel.

Fifty-five residents wrote to Minister Flanagan last November complaining about the length of their stay.

Their email, which was released under the Freedom of Information Act, with personal details omitted, says they have been in the hotel for eight months and no one tells them the truth about when they are leaving and they have had enough of the broken promises.

The refugees also told the minister that its management had not been fair to all of the residents and that media reports weren't giving a fair picture of what life was like in the hotel for all the Syrians.

The refugees demanded to know when they will move on with their lives again and 'get ready in their minds', so they can work or continue education.

They are grateful to 'Ireland' for taking them, but claim it is very hard to live in a hotel for a long time - they compare it to a 'jail' sometimes.

In October 2017, a group of 10 Syrians also sent an email to Minister Charlie Flanagan strongly complaining about the food quality and kitchen area, and threatened to take legal action over alleged problems at the centre.

They also claim there was an alleged assault on a staff member over the food.

The inefficiency of chefs, uncooked food, poor cleanliness of the kitchen, tools and staff is also highlighted in their email.

They take exception to Syrians who appear to be working in the kitchen and call on the minister to send a delegation to investigate the matter.

Otherwise, they will 'hire a lawyer and file a collective lawsuit against the company responsible for food at the centre'.

The refugees claim that when department representatives arrive at the centre, they will discover the majority of people have the same problem.

The Abbeyfield Hotel Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre (EROC) has a capacity for 240 refugees, but as of August 30, 2018, 130 Syrians reside at the centre.

However, in July the Department of Justice confirmed it will not renew a contract with the Abbeyfield Hotel which expires in December 2019.

Instead, it has chosen four other premises across the State which it says are suitable for future use as reception centres, but no reasons for the failure of the contract to be renewed, or where the reception centres will be, have been revealed.

In a response to a request for comment, the Reception and Integration Agency says it takes all reports of issues with food quality and safety very seriously and investigates any suspected problems. Management at the centre also engages proactively with the local residents and their representatives, who are selected to liaise on their behalf.

Housing is a responsibility of local councils. Each council is assigned a specific number of allocations. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing housing situation, time spent in EROCs for families is greater than originally envisaged. Families are informed of relocation as soon as the Irish Refugee Protection Programme receives details of tenancy agreements.

The Abbeyfield Hotel has not responded for comment.

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