Northern Ireland news

First asylum seekers begin arriving in Letterkenny

The refugees are being housed at a former student accommodation complex in Letterkenny.
Seamus McKinney

THe first of more than 300 asylum seekers have begun moving into new accommodation in Co Donegal following a series of setbacks.

A small welcome party turned out to greet the refugees as they arrived at a former student accommodation centre in Letterkenny yesterday.

Up to 60 families, an estimated 360 people, are eventually expected to be moved to the facility at Port Road in the Donegal town following delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The arrival of the refugees in Letterkenny comes after plans to bring asylum seekers to Inishowen in 2018 were abandoned when opponents of the Republic’s Direct Provision scheme set fire to a former hotel in Moville earmarked for the group.

Following the subsequent assault of a security guard at the former Caiseal Mara hotel in Moville, the building was dropped as a direct provision centre.

The building was subsequently purchased by award-winning theatre producer, John Gore, who is also one of the biggest financial backers of the British Conservative party.

Donegal independent TD, Thomas Pringle and independent senator, Eileen Flynn hoped the refugees would receive a warm welcome to Letterkenny.

Mr Pringle said: “I hope our new Letterkenny neighbours will feel very much at home. Donegal Welcomes is one of a number of support groups formed locally to welcome our new members of community, as much as current Covid-19 restrictions allow.”

Senator Flynn said Donegal people knew how difficult it was to make a life in a new country.

“We can use that understanding to help people settle here and become part of our Donegal community by giving them a warm welcome. People from different countries have brought so much to our communities in Donegal,” she said.

Both Mr Pringle and Senator Flynn called on the government to honour a commitment to replace the Direct Provision system for refugees with "a new system of accommodation and supports".

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