Residents in Leitrim protest over plan to house 130 asylum seekers

Residents in Leitrim protest over plan to house 130 asylum seekers

A protest is under way in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, at an apartment block where the Department of Justice plans to accommodate up to 130 asylum seekers.

About 350 people attended a public meeting in the town on Sunday, where it was agreed that a peaceful demonstration would be held from Monday morning.

Ballinamore Community Group said they have “grave concerns and complete opposition to the proposed re-housing of 130 asylum seekers in an apartment compound in the town”.

Group spokesman Gordon Hughes said they will hold the round-the-clock peaceful demonstration outside the complex until the Government sits down and talks to them about the plans.

Mr Hughes said the current direct provision system for asylum seekers is broken and does not meet their needs.

He said Ballinamore has a population of 900 people, and the planned number of asylum seekers it is proposed are housed there is not proportional to the size of the town.

“We are being expected to accept 15% of the population to the town, and the infrastructure is not there to cope with it,” he said.He said the demonstration is not about resistance or fear of immigration.

“Ballinamore was one of the first towns to have a reception centre and we received about 20 people. We are saying we will accept this, but only on a proportional basis,” he said.

The Department of Justice has also faced resistance to opening new direct provision centres, with arson attacks at hotels in Moville, Co Donegal, and Rooskey in Co Roscommon, earlier this year.

Residents in Leitrim protest over plan to house 130 asylum seekers

Mr Hughes said he appreciates the pressure the Government is under to house asylum seekers, but they are not consulting enough with the communities in which they want to house them.

The group hosting the demonstration are carrying signs that read “No to people traffickers”, “System Failure” and “Community not compounds”.

The Department of Justice said meetings would be held on Thursday with local groups, councillors and TDs in Ballinamore, to address community concerns.

The department said it was “confident that any concerns about possible impact on local facilities and services can be comprehensively addressed”.

“Work is under way across government to ensure full service provision. Information will be provided on all these issues directly to local residents in Ballinamore.

“Both centres will offer own-door self-catering accommodation, primarily to families.

“The department is working with a number of other Government departments and agencies to make sure that the necessary supports and services are in place in both locations in advance of any arrivals.”

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