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Mayo Intercultural Action receives much-needed funds


Mayo Intercultural Action receives much-needed EU funds

Old Convent asylum centre in Ballyhaunis has 250 residents

Áine Ryan

MAYO Intercultural Action (MIA) has received an EU grant of €88,919 to fund the Solas project, which will provide support for asylum seekers and their families living in both Mayo and Galway.
MIA has provided  information, supports and advocacy for asylum seekers on a voluntary basis in County Mayo for almost ten years. It now plans to expand its work base and to go into partnership with Croí na Gaillimhe, a Resource Centre of the St Vincent de Paul in Galway city to establish a support centre for asylum seekers.
This funding comes at a time when there are little or no supports for this very vulnerable group of people, some of whom have been living for long periods in direct provision hostels in The Old Convent, Ballyhaunis and the Eglington Hostel and Great Western Hostel in Galway.
 “This is really great news. MIA is almost ten years old, and we have done phenomenal work over the years providing badly needed supports for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, on minimal resources and with huge voluntary input from a dedicated team and invaluable support of statutory and community organisations in Mayo. MIA are really looking forward to teaming up with Croí na Gaillimhe, SVP in Galway to establish an additional support centre in the city and providing outreach to the direct provision hostels in both Mayo and Galway,” said Thérèse Ruane, the founder of MIA.
She continued: “Here in Mayo, there are more than 250 people living in The Old Convent, Ballyhaunis and in Galway, there are 333 people living in both the Eglington Hostel and the Great Western Hostel. Asylum seekers are a very isolated, vulnerable group of people, with very specific needs.”
Ms Ruane said the Solas project will focus on providing information, advocacy, and training supports for asylum seekers in Mayo and Galway.  
“MIA has been campaigning for supports and a system that treats asylum seekers and their families with respect and dignity they deserve, a system that is fair and equitable. Residents become institutionalised, experience social exclusion, and mental health difficulties due to the delay in processing protection applications, enforced unemployment, enforced poverty, and very limited access to education and training. We have highlighted the reality for asylum seekers and their families who are forced to live in cramped and overcrowded conditions in hostels.”

DETAILS of an inspectors’ report on asylum centres, revealed in The Irish Times during October,  showed they had given the centre 30 days to remedy fire safety issues raised a year previously.
Inspectors warned in March this year that the number of issues highlighted at the Old Convent was ‘too extensive to catalogue’ individually. Bridgestock Ltd, which operates the Old Convent facility, later satisfied inspectors that it had either tackled all the issues highlighted on the two occasions, or was in the process of doing so.
A project worker with MIA, Natalya Pestova said it had ‘a proven track record in delivering EU project’. She said MIA had worked under the ERF fund as well as the under the Equality for Women Measure, which helps women establish businesses.
“Both projects had very successful outcomes, so with this proven track record in project delivery, we are very excited about this new initiative and we really look forward to working in partnership with Croí na Gaillimhe and SVP in Galway. We will now be recruiting suitably qualified people to fill three part time posts in January 2014, two based in Castlebar and one in Galway,” Ms Pestova said.