Asylum seekers arriving at Kerry hotel have been in Ireland more than two months

None of the asylum seekers arriving in Cahersiveen this week have been in the country for "less than two months".

Asylum seekers arriving at Kerry hotel have been in Ireland more than two months

None of the asylum seekers arriving in Cahersiveen this week have been in the country for "less than two months".

The Department of Justice moved to calm local fears after the first 105 of 150 asylum seekers have been moved from Dublin hotels to the Kerry town this week.

A row broke out locally over the decision by the Department, as part of its emergency response to Covid-19, to open the former Skellig Star Hotel as a new accommodation centre for asylum seekers who are being moved out of Dublin hotels.

Independent councillor Johnny Healy-Rae accused the Department of taking advantage of the virus to move people to Cahersiveen without consultation.

In January, the Department had denied reports Cahersiveen was to have a centre.

Mr Healy-Rae said public representatives got just two hours notice before the 12-month contract was signed.

In update to Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Cahill, the Department said they understood residents had concerns.

Of the 105 residents arriving, some 66 are single, most of whom are female. There are 16 female one parent, one child families, one parent with two children, and two couples.

"The balance of the 150 residents will be transferred in the coming weeks," they said.

School places would be arranged and residents in the new centre will have access to local health services. Access to GP services will be through the medical card system.

"If the concerns locally are that the people may have recently arrived from a region affected by Covid-19, I can confirm that no one in the group of 105 has been in this country for less than two months and all have been health screened by the HSE-led medical team at our reception centre in Baleseskin, North Dublin on their arrival," the Department said.

Mixed views are being expressed by residents of Cahersiveen on social media. Most criticise the lack of consultation.

A spokesperson for the Department said it understood the concerns.

"This decision has not been taken lightly. We are in unprecedented times. The Department has a duty to protect all persons seeking international protection, and this is one step that we are taking in this regard," they said.

To ensure the safety and wellbeing of applicants, they needed to transfer those who are currently in emergency accommodation in hotels to dedicated accommodation centres.

The contract with the former Skellig Star hotel in Caherciveen is for a 12 month period. It is to provide accommodation for 150 single people across 56 bedrooms and was offered to the Department under the Expressions of Interest process.

The Skellig Star Hotel, formerly known as the Watermarque Hotel, underwent a €3 million revamp in 2017 when it was purchased by a group of Irish and Chinese Investors.

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