Mayo will take in 86 Syrian refugees this year, the members of Mayo County Council were informed this week. Síofra Kilcullen who is the chair of the newly established Mayo Interagency Resettlement Committee told the elected members of the plans. She told the meeting that Mayo is one of eight counties across the country which will be taking part in the resettlement programme.
The 86 refugees will be made up of 20 different families, 50 per cent of those who will be arriving being children, they will be located in three locations in the county in Castlebar, Westport, and Claremorris after spending six to eight weeks in a registeration centre before being homed in Mayo.
The families will undertake initial language and orientation programmes in the registration centre and will be then relocated in one of the three towns depending on their housing and health needs, along with the availability of linkages to the appropriate support services given that the group will include some particularly vulnerable individuals and families.
The first 16 families will be arriving in August this year with the other four to follow before the year's end. This will not be the first time that Mayo has welcomed refugees into the county, with 18 families from the Karen community in Burma coming to Mayo in 2007 which Ms Kilcullen said was held up as one of the best examples of resettlement project in the country. Unlike others who come to Ireland seeking refugee status, the Syrian families who arrive in Mayo will have the same rights as Irish citizens and do not need to go through the asylum process as they are part of a 'programme refugee' plan that is being run by the Department of Justice in support of a UNHCR plan.
There was a broad welcome from the elected councillors in the chamber for the plan, with a number of the councillors calling for extra funding to be made available from a national level to ensure that the needs of the refugee families who come to the country are met and that funding would not be needed to be taken from other services in the county.
Sinn Féin councillor Therese Ruane said that she had a lot of experience working with the Karan community refugees from Burma who came to Mayo nine years ago, and that was a great example of how this should be done, and called for a fully intergrated approach to the plan. Cllr Michael Kilcyone said: "I welcome this plan, but I want to ensure that these people are properly looked after when they come here and that we have the resources in place to help with them." Fine Gael councillor Jarlath Munnelly said: "I'm very supportive of this plan, we know times are tough for a lot of people, but we have to remember our humanitarian side too."