By Gordon Deegan
Private firms operating a countrywide network of direct provision centres for asylum seekers and refugees last year shared a €50m (including VAT) bonanza.
That is according to new figures published by the Department of Justice which show that the firm, Next Week and Co Ltd accommodating around 200 Syrian refugees in Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon was last year paid €2.94m.
The figures show that the contractor to receive the highest amount from the Department of Justice was Mosney plc which received fees in excess of €8m.
Mosney plc operates a direct provision centre for 600 asylum seekers at Mosney in County Meath and the €8m it received last year brings to €127.4m the company has received from the State between 2002 and 2017 for its direct provision service.
The bulk of the €50.59m in 2017 was received by eight contractors in the system last year who shared €41m.
Currently, the direct provision system is coming under increased pressure as it tries to grapple with a 30% surge in asylum seeker applications in 2017 resulting in 5,200 asylum seekers living in 34 accommodation centres at the end of December last.
The surge was driven by more than a doubling to 545 Syrians seeking asylum making up 18.6% of the 2017 total of new applicants.
In response, the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) is currently seeking to open “as a matter of urgency” a new direct provision centre in Lisdoonvarna for 115 asylum centres in spite of a vote in the Clare village showing that 93% of those who voted have said ‘no’ the planned centre.
As a result of the surge, the overall cost of operating the direct provision system is set to increase this year and the Dept of Justice figures show that two other contractors last year received fees in excess of €6m, two receiving fees in excess of €5m with two other contractors receiving fees over €3m.
The figures show that a number of companies controlled by businessman Alan Hyde in the Barlow Group last year received fees of €6.89m. The group accommodates over 600 asylum seekers across Cork and Waterford.
Separately, a group of firms led by businessman, Sean Lyons received fees of €6.85m.
The Lyons companies include Fazyard Ltd and Old George Ltd who received payments totalling €4.14m with the two providing accommodation for around 500 asylum seekers in Dublin and Emo, County Laois.
In April of last year, a circuit court judge approved a €8,000 payout to two children who sustained bed bug bites during their stay in June 2013 at a Dublin hostel, the Georgian Court Hostel of Lower Gardiner Street owned by Fazyard Ltd.
Aramark now owns one of Ireland’s favourite food and lifestyle brands, Avoca and the Deptartment of Justice figures show that two other Aramark owned companies last year received €5.5m last year for operating State-owned direct provision centres at Knockalisheen, County Clare, County Cork and County Meath where over 825 asylum seekers are accommodated.
Bridgestock is led by businessman Shay Gillen and it caters for around 500 asylum seekers in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo and Sligo town and the €5m received last year brings to €91m the firm has received in payments between 2000 and 2017.
The new figures from the Department of Justice’s Purchase Order book for 2017 show that shows that Millstreet Equestrian Services which provides accommodation for around 380 in Cork and Waterford received payment of €3m.
Between 2000 and 2017, Millstreet Equestrian Services has received €76 million in fees from the State.
The figures also show that Onsite Field Management (OFM) received fees of €3m to provide services for 325 asylum seekers at four centres in County Kerry.
The most recent accounts for OFM show that it recorded pre-tax profits of €138,704 in the 12 months to the end of February 28th 2017 with its four directors sharing pay of €257,128.
A number of contractors operating in the system including Bridgestock and Millstream Equestrian Services have unlimited status and are not required to lodge annual accounts with the Companies Office here.