PLANS to bring asylum seekers to Letterkenny early in the new year have been met with a mixed reaction.
It follows confirmation that a contract that been signed with the Department of Justice that will see up to 350 asylum seekers live at former student accommodation on the Port Road.
In a joint statement, Deputy Thomas Pringle and Senator Eileen Flynn say it’s important for the local community to rally around and help make our new neighbours feel welcome.
However, local Cllr Michael McBride has expressed concern at the fact that this decision was made without local consultation and he is asking the mayor to call a special council meeting.
In a joint statement, Deputy Thomas Pringle and Senator Eileen Flynn said they welcome the opportunity for Donegal to show people seeking asylum ‘a real céad míle fáilte’
“This is good news for Donegal. It’s important for the local community to rally around and help make our new neighbours feel welcome.
“I know that local support groups will also help our new members of community settle in. Donegal is a great, multicultural county that has already been enriched by the arrival of people from different cultures in our communities,” Deputy Pringle said.
Senator Flynn said that she hoped people will extend the famous Irish welcome – a real céad míle fáilte – to the families Letterkenny will welcome in the new year.
“People who come from other countries always bring so much to communities. We can extend a welcome with open arms, to help them feel at home in Donegal,” Senator Flynn said.
Deputy Pringle and Senator Flynn said Donegal people, more than many, know well the experience of living and working in other countries.
Senator Flynn said: “Over many years, every family in Donegal has had relatives work abroad. From that shared experience, we can welcome the families with a better understanding of the difficulties they may face.”
Deputy Pringle said: “We also know the discrimination that newcomers can often face, and we can build on our shared experience to make sure all people receive a warm welcome.”
Deputy Pringle and Senator Flynn said they also wanted to make sure the families were treated with dignity and respect. Both have called for an end to the system of direct provision.
They have called on the Government to implement the recommendations of the September 2020 report of the advisory group chaired by Catherine Day, a former secretary-general of the European Commission, an issue Deputy Pringle raised during Leader’s Questions recently.
The committee recommended “ending the congregated and segregated accommodation of applicants” and providing “own-door accommodation” through the local authorities within three months of an application.
Deputy Pringle and Senator Flynn said: “In these Covid times we cannot have the kind of welcome gathering we would like, but our offices are open and we look forward to getting to know our new neighbours better in the future.”
However, Cllr McBride expressed concern that the contract had been signed without any consultation with Donegal county council or the people of Letterkenny.
“The possibility of this happening was brought to my attention a number of months ago and I raised the question at a Letterkenny/Milford municipal meeting and was assured that Donegal direct provision department had no knowledge of the plan,” he said.
“I have contacted our mayor, Cllr. Donal Coyle suggesting an emergency meeting of our municipal area and asked that we would invite the minister for justice to attend.
“The people of Letterkenny need answers, we are a multicultural society that lives in harmony but this plan is unprecedented and must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Can 350 people possibly live in 60 two and three bedroom apartments (an average of around 6 people per apartment). What about schools, healthcare and the welfare of everyone involved and affected by this plan?” Cllr McBride asked.