PROTEST A 'silent vigil' is continuing at the Achill Head Hotel ahead of the arrival of 13 asylum seekers on Friday.
Locals feel department has ‘failed’ the community after meeting fails to address concerns
Officials from the Department of Justice have confirmed that 13 female asylum seekers are due to arrive in Achill tomorrow (Friday).
Representatives of the community accompanied local Fianna Fáil councillor Paul McNamara at a meeting with both the Department of Justice and The Reception and Integration Agency in Achill yesterday evening.
In a statement on social media following the meeting, Cllr McNamara confirmed that 13 female asylum seekers are due to arrive on the island on Friday, November 1 and stay in the Achill Head Hotel.
Cllr McNamara added that another 25 asylum seekers are due to arrive in the next fortnight and they will consist mostly of families. However, he stated that nationality of the asylum seekers was not disclosed to them by the officials.
This was the first face-to-face meeting between members of the Achill community and department officials since word broke on the island last week that asylum seekers are due to stay in emergency accommodation in the village of Pollagh
Many people believe the site is not suitable for emergency accommodation and yesterday evening (Wednesday) a number of people held placards illustrating their concern at the entrance to the island.
Cllr McNamara stated that he told the officials that the community feel ‘forgotten about and let down’ throughout this process and described the lack of communication and consultation with the local people as ‘appalling’.
“In summary of our meeting it became apparent that the department officials knew very little information about Achill. They also confirmed to us none of the three officials had ever visited The Achill Head Hotel. This information came as a shock.
“We believe the Department of Justice have failed the community of Achill along with the people seeking asylum. We requested these officials visit The Achill Head Hotel along with the village of Pollagh, prior to leaving the island, to grasp the facts we stressed regarding the unsuitability of The Achill Head Hotel for emergency accommodation.
“We relayed to department officials the consensus which we as a community reached at the public meeting. We are happy to integrate asylum seekers looking to start a new life into our villages and local schools in a different manner. We as a community are deeply disappointed that we were not afforded the opportunity to do so,” added Cllr McNamara.
A ‘vigil’ by local people continues to take place outside the Achill Head Hotel in the village of Pollagh where the asylum seekers are due to be accommodated. Cllr McNamara stated that
it was apparent from the meeting that the only criteria needed to be met in order to provide emergency accommodation was ‘bed and board’.
“The proprietor of The Achill Head Hotel expressed interest in using the hotel for Emergency Accommodation in January of 2019. In September a site visit was conducted, this involved an official from the department visiting the hotel, during this visit the official did not look at the services or lack there of in the Pollagh area. The contract was signed after this visit.
“The contract is in place for three months. Once this contract expires the proprietor of The Achill Head Hotel can reapply every three months and continuously provide Emergency Accommodation. When questioned a department official informed us that The Achill Head Hotel cannot become a Direct Provision Centre, as it does not meet the criteria of ‘independent living’.”
Cllr McNamara also stated the department have failed to provide any extra services to facilitate the needs of the people availing of the emergency accommodation. He also stated that no local schools have been consulted and ‘therefore it is impossible for the department to have met the educational needs of these children’.