Cllr Paul McNamara
Offer to house asylum seekers in houses turned down
AN alternative accommodation proposal for asylum seekers due to be housed in Achill has been turned down by the Department of Justice and Equality.
There has been huge controversy over plans to house 38 asylum seekers in an emergency direct provision centre at the Achill Head Hotel with an ongoing protest taking place at the hotel for the past week.
Local protestors cite a lack of communication from the department combined with what they say is the lack of suitability of both the hotel and its location in the village of Pollagh as the grounds for their protest.
After a heated public meeting in Achill on October 23 last, Achill councillor Paul McNamara said the feeling of those gathered at the meeting was Achill people would welcome people ‘under the proper circumstances and with proper integration’. He cited the many empty houses on the island as more suitable than a Direct Provision centre.
Cllr McNamara told The Mayo News last night (Monday) he arranged an alternative accommodation proposal himself but said it was rebuked by the department.
“I offered alternative accommodation in the parish if the department wanted to integrate people in a different manner, with houses in different parts of the island.
“I spoke to local property owners and it was not a problem but the department said it was not feasible.
“I think it would be an ideal way to integrate asylum seekers properly into the community and it would probably be cheaper than an emergency Direct Provision centre,” Cllr McNamara said.
He added he had received firm commitments from three property owners and was confident more could be sourced.
“I have sourced three houses from three different property owners in three different parts of Achill. These houses are ready to move into now and could house three families.
“These properties are available for six months and could be available for longer but we were told it was not an option.
“From the public meeting on the first day this story broke we have always said Achill is more than willing and able to accommodate asylum seekers in the right manner.
“I think three would be a very good start and I have no doubt more houses could be sourced but before I went any further I wanted to see if it was a runner.
“I put it to the Department. These houses were sourced and are available and would help integrate new families into the community in a much better fashion but the Department did not see it as a solution, they were only concerned with using emergency accommodation in hotels. We need to be able to think of more creative solutions than that,” he said.