More than 200 people attended a public meeting in Achill on Wednesday night after it emerged that an emergency accommodation centre might be opened in The Achill Head Hotel at Pollagh. The meeting heard of the unsuitability of the location for the proposed centre, with attendees saying that the people who are seeking the accommodation are not the targets, but the Department of Justice which had failed to liaise with locals on the matter.
Local Fianna Fáil Cllr Paul McNamara said after the meeting that following lengthy discussion with the individuals involved, he has been assured that there will be no migrants arriving to the hotel this week and that no final decisions on the matter will be made until the Department of Justice liaises with the local community.
People Before Profit Mayo Dáil election candidate for Mayo, Joe Daly, said that the general consensus of the meeting was that people were not opposed to immigrants or refugees coming into their communities, provided they were properly supported and with the services required to integrate them into the local community.
"Some even suggested using the many empty homes lying idle around the island. Many local people spoke about the neglect and decline of Achill Island for decades, due to the savage austerity cuts and deep anger and frustration at being abandoned," he said.
He added that People Before Profit Mayo condemns the way the Government is implementing its direct provision strategy repeatedly situating the centres in small, under resourced rural communities without proper consultation.
"Instead of direct provision centres, asylum seekers should be given the basic right to work and the right to choose where they live. When this was the case in the past this controversy didn’t exist.
"There are over 15,000 empty dwellings in Mayo according to the Census 2016, and these should be opened up to refugees, homeless, and people on social housing waiting lists via a large scale compulsory acquisition and refurbishment programme. This would also provide many jobs in rural areas.
"We believe the best way to oppose the decimation of rural Ireland and end the inhumane direct provision system is to build people powered campaigns against the system which inflicts brutal austerity on rural communities just as it creates the wars and poverty which these refugees are fleeing from."
Green Party candidate Saoirse McHugh said that she was compiling a list of people in the area who wished to act as a welcoming committee for any migrants who are to be accommodated in the area.
In a statement to the Mayo Advertiser, the Department of Justice said last evening, that in early September 2018, demand for accommodation exceeded the number of bed spaces available in their accommodation centres.
"As demand continued to rise, the Department sought expressions of interest for emergency temporary accommodation which was advertised in the national media in January of this year.
"It should be noted that there are currently 36 emergency accommodation locations all over the country. These emergency centres are temporary and short term in nature, pending the opening of new centres. Emergency accommodation is provided through hotels and guest houses which continue to operate as commercial premises.
"In general, it is not possible for the Department to confirm any specific emergency accommodation locations or premises, or indeed the numbers of applicants in emergency premises as to do so runs the risk of identifying them.
"All State service providers are notified once an applicant is given accommodation - as applicants are provided with a range of State services while their claim is being legally examined," they concluded.