Ballaghaderreen Senator‘What extra resources are going to be put in place if one in eight people are refugees?’

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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According to an ESRI report published in December, 507 persons have been resettled in Ireland under the EU Resettlement Programme, with an additional 260 refugees to be resettled in 2017. The majority of refugees resettled since 2014 have been of Syrian origin.

Yesterday afternoon, it emerged that a potential 80 Syrian refugees are to be housed in a former hotel in Ballaghaderreen over the coming weeks. And, at 11:30 AM this morning, Roscommon County councillors met to discuss the proposals.

In response to the news, one Ballaghaderreen native, Fine Gael Senator Maura Hopkins, spoke with Sean O’Rourke on the Today programme, where she outlined some of her concerns, particularly in relation to impact these potential new residents might have on the small Roscommon town.

“This is a major and significant change for our town … Obviously I am concerned that there hasn’t been proper consultation; that there hasn’t been proper engagement within the community in Ballaghaderreen.”

The people concerned a have been assessed by Irish officials in Greece, where they have been based since leaving Syria, fleeing a civil war which has been raging since 2011.

“Ballaghaderreen is a very close-knit community and this is our first level of awareness of this happening and these people, who have gone through very difficult times, are potentially coming through Ballaghaderreen in about 10 to 15 days.”

She said that this morning she received numerous calls from Ballaghaderreen locals who are concerned. The Abbeyfield Hotel, the location proposed to house the refugees, has been closed for some years.

“My concern really is about the practicalities… we’re talking about people arriving will need enhanced support and I haven’t got answers yet,” she said.

Amongst those supports, Senator Hopkins outlined the potential lack of capacity of local schools, the additional burden placed on frontline GP services and other social services. Although initially 80 people have been identified for relocation to Ballaghaderreen, she claims that the Department have indicated a potential capacity of 250 in this location. Given that the local population comprises almost 2000, this would constitute quite a significant influx in a small, rural town, according to the Senator.

“What extra resources are going to be put in place if one in eight people are from that community … are refugees?” she asked.

Presenter, Sean O’Rourke, then put it to Senator Hopkins and that, perhaps, listeners might get the impression that the arrival of these refugees was being seen as some kind of threat. But might their arrival also provide an opportunity to help revive the small community of Ballaghaderreen

A pause.

“Potentially,” Senator Hopkins answered.

In November 2016 Ireland ranked seventh in meeting its resettlement commitments under the EU Resettlement Programme among 31 participating countries. NGOs, such as the Immigrant Council of Ireland and UNHCR, have called on the Irish government to do more to respond to the ongoing refugee crisis.

Photo Credit: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images

© The Listener 2017

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