Senator Maura Hopkins has said that she is “not convinced at all” that sufficient plans are in place for the arrival of Refugees to the Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre in Ballaghaderreen.
Maura Hopkins has also confirmed that she has “emphasised strongly” to Minister David Stanton and Minister Frances Fitzgerald that the local community and civic leaders need to be informed of what extra resources and support services will be put in place in order to be convinced that the Refugees will be properly supported.
Commenting on the sudden nature of the announcement of the plan to open the “EPOC” in the former Abbeyfield Hotel, which broke on Thursday evening, the Ballaghaderreen native said “This decision has been absolutely parachuted on us without any prior notice or consultation with the people of Ballaghaderreen. There has been no information given to us on the additional resources that will be provided in terms of psychology, teaching, GP’s, nurses and other medical professionals along with how the hotel will be run in terms of caterers, cleaners, security.”
The news that the former Abbeyfield Hotel would not be re-open as a functioning Hotel came as a blow to locals, from a social and commercial point of view. “We really believed that the Hotel would assist in developing the tourism potential of the area” said Maura Hopkins, adding that it could “increase visitor numbers by linking with Ireland West Airport in Knock along with assisting in the attraction of increased industry into the town”.
Since the new broke on Thursday Senator Hopkins has raised the issue at Government level, including with the Minister of State for Justice, David Stanton. “He advised me that the expected time of arrival of the 80 refugees will now be at the end of March. These people will stay for a period of 6 months and then be housed in different parts of the country. He also informed me that he expects about half of the 80 refugees arriving in March will be children. He said that there will be a preschool set up in the Abbeyfield Hotel along with provision of English classes. I am actively seeking further information regarding proposed services for primary and secondary school age children.”
“a highly supportive environment”
Senator Hopkins went on to say “The community in Ballaghaderreen understand that these refugees have been through terrible experiences but it is essential that they are provided with a highly supportive environment to help them to recover.”
“I am extremely disappointed that there has been no engagement or consultation with the people of Ballaghaderreen, we deserve better than this. We are a very close-knit community and this type of project needs community support to be successful. We are a welcoming people in Ballaghaderreen and it is very much a multicultural town. I understand fully that Ballaghaderreen and County Roscommon must play our part and do our fair share in terms of supporting refugees who have been through horrific experiences. Doing our fair share involves ensuring that the number of people we help is linked directly to the capacity of the town to provide a highly supportive environment. It also means ensuring specialist and additional resources are provided such as GP’s, teachers, nurses, interpreters, psychologists, dieticians among others.”
She also expressed her concern that Department of Justice officials have assessed the Abbeyfield Hotel site, with it’s 40 bedrooms and 29 apartments, as having the potential to accommodate up to 250 people at any one time. “We must absolutely ensure that we are realistic and practical about the number of people on site at any one time in terms of Ballaghaderreen’s capacity to care for these people and provide the support they need.”
extra resources and support services
Maura Hopkins concluded by saying that she has meetings with Department Officials this week to discuss these plans in depth and to communicate the concerns of the Ballaghaderreen community. “I am not convinced at all that sufficient plans are in place for this at present. I have emphasised strongly to Minister David Stanton and Minister Frances Fitzgerald that we need to know what extra resources and support services will be put in place in order to be convinced that these people will be properly supported.”