Doras Lumni, set up 10 years ago, provides a wide range of services, including English language classes to up to 700 asylum seekers, and works with more than 3,000 foreign-nationals living in the Limerick area.
Karen McHugh, chief executive officer of Doras, said living conditions for asylum seekers have worsened with the closure of the Sarsfield Hotel, which catered for more than 100 people. Asylum seekers who lived there have been moved to five other hostels operating in the Limerick area and to other parts of the country.
Ms McHugh said: “In one city centre hostel, which was a hotel, there are four to six people living in rooms. The people living in the rooms come from different countries and speak different languages. There has to be a health and safety issue with these kind of numbers in the same room. The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) seem to think this is all right and complies with regulations.
“Overcrowding in hostels is an issue all over the country. We are told by the Department of Justice it is fine. Some people have been in hostel accommodation for the past seven years. The people who own these types of accommodation are making big profits,” Ms McHugh said.
She said conditions in another hostel, a former boarding school were “awful”. “It’s like going back 50 years,” she said.
She said the number of asylum seekers in Limerick will drop from 700 to 500 due to the economic situation.
Doras gets most of its €750,000 annual funding from Atlantic Philanthropies, owned by Chuck Feeney and the One Foundation run by the Ryan family, who own Ryanair.
Ms McHugh said there was huge pressure on their English language classes which are run by a team of 30 volunteers who have special linguistic skills.