'Discriminating against ordinary citizens': Cllr objects to Tullamore Direct Provision centre

An Independent councillor is raising concerns of potential overcrowding in a new Direct Provision centre in Offaly.

'Discriminating against ordinary citizens': Cllr objects to Tullamore Direct Provision centre

Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke

An Independent councillor is raising concerns of potential overcrowding in a new Direct Provision centre in Offaly.

The former Marian Hostel in Tullamore will accommodate up to 168 asylum-seekers who will arrive on a phased basis.

The centre will open early next month and will have cooking facilities and a food hall for residents.

But Offaly councillor John Leahy says the plans are a joke and likened it to shoving people into a sardine tin.

"What amazes me about the whole system is the Justice department with Direct Provision legislation can supersede planning permission," said Cllr Leahy.

"I know as county councillors if we put 168 people into that facility, we would be in the human rights court straight away and people would be crying from the rooftops saying that it is absolutely scandalous."

He said that the plans are "discriminating against ordinary citizens of Offaly".

"There is a shortage of medical care in the county and if you want to see a doctor you will have to wait a couple of days.

"What happens here is that migrants and refugees come and they will be allocated a doctor regardless if a doctor is at full capacity.

"Then, from a housing point of view, if someone came to me and said 'my daughter is on a housing waiting list for the last eight years, will someone from this Direct Provision centre get a house before my daughter?' I would have to say yes."

However, Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins, a member of the Oireachtas foreign affairs committee, takes a much different view.

"We have to play our role in dealing with and processing asylum seekers and people seeking international protection," said Deputy Collins.

"The State over the years has unfortunately not provided accommodation to a proper standard and I think that what has been announced in relation to Tullamore certainly seems an improvement to some of the centres which have been controversial recently."

Fiona Hurley, communications manager with Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre, said it was not true that asylum seekers would “leap frog” housing lists.

That’s not true, to say that does a disservice, it allows inaccurate information. Asylum seekers are not eligible to be on social housing lists.

However, Cllr Leahy said this was not true “on the ground” and that two of four social houses built in Birr, Co Offaly last year had been allocated to migrants.

“They were put on the housing list from direct provision. There was a directive from the Department that they had to be housed.

“It’s a war of words, it’s actually happening.”

Ms Hurley said she did not understand how that could happen in Birr as people in the asylum process were not eligible for social housing.

“Only certain categories are eligible to access the housing list.”

She said that of the thousands of people they represented she knew they could not “leap frog” the list.

Cllr Leahy called for people to be treated equally and not to be allowed “leap frog” social housing or GP lists.

“This is happening, everybody knows.”

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