€655m paid to asylum centre firms

Irish Refugee Council CEO Sue Conlan said the sums paid to the private operators of direct provision centres contrasted starkly with the amounts paid to asylum seekers for their own or their children's support.
Irish Refugee Council CEO Sue Conlan said the sums paid to the private operators of direct provision centres contrasted starkly with the amounts paid to asylum seekers for their own or their children's support.

The State paid out more than €655m over 10 years to firms and individuals providing accommodation for asylum seekers.

Figures released by the Department of Justice show that Mosney in Co Meath received over €89m between 2000 and 2010. The firm is led by Louth businessman Phelim McCloskey and has capacity for 600 asylum seekers.

East Coast Catering received payments of €77.9m; Bridgestock, based in Sligo/Mayo, was paid €50.3m; and Noel C Duggan’s Millstreet Equestrian Services was paid €42.6m.

Three companies orindividuals in Cork received almost €40m between them. Daniel O’Keeffe and Eric Geary (in trust) were paid €15.5m; Barlow Properties received €14.4m; and Alan Hyde and Ted Murphy were paid €9.8m.

The up-to-date profits for the firms are not available as all have unlimited status and are not required to file annual accounts with the Companies Office.

The department confirmed that, at the end of 2012, 4,829 asylum seekers were living in 35 centres in 17 counties, with an occupancy of 88.5%.

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, who received the information, described the sums paid out as “incredible”.

“It is a little difficult to accept that a firm like Mosney can receive such large sums when people are living in these centres for years.

“There doesn’t seem to be any urgency in dealing with the applications and the delays are unacceptable.

“I just wonder about the wisdom and the way all of this money has been spent.”

Justice Minister Alan Shatter confirmed that 60% of asylum seekers had been in direct provision accommodation for at least three years.

Irish Refugee Council CEO Sue Conlan said the sums paid to the private operators of direct provision centres contrasted starkly with the amounts paid to asylum seekers for their own or their children’s support.

“This sum has remained the same for 12 years: €19.10 per week for adults, just under €1,000 for the year, and €9.60 per week per child, just under €500 for the year, while the centre operators received over €12,500 per resident for 2012,” said Ms Conlan.

“In financial terms alone, there is a need for reform, but the most pressing matters are the immediate and long-term effect of poverty and institutionalisation, particularly on children and young people.”

In a written reply to Ms O’Sullivan, Mr Shatter pointed out that, by 2012, the cost of funding the Reception and Integration Agency, which oversees the asylum process and pays the providers, had fallen 32% in four years to €62m.

Mr Shatter said there were no cheaper alternatives to the direct provision system.

“If we were operating a system which facilitated asylum seekers in living independent lives in individual housing with social welfare support and payments, the cost to the exchequer would be double what is currently paid under the direct provision system,” said Mr Shatter.

Top five

*Mosney — €89.5m

*East Coast Catering, Dublin/Dundalk — €77.9m

*Bridgestock, Sligo/Mayo — €50.3m

*Millstreet Equestrian Services, Cork/ Tipperary/Waterford — €42.6m

*Shaun Hennelly, Galway — €21.3m

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