Asylum seekers have begun arriving in Tullamore
ASYLUM seekers were moving into the direct provision centre in Tullamore this morning (Wednesday, March 18).
The arrival of about 40 people followed a tour of the facility at Marian Hostel on High Street by four members of Offaly County Council.
It is understood that about 40 asylum seekers are arriving today and about 40 more in the next couple of days.
Speaking after a tour of the premises, Cllr Declan Harvey described it as “absolutely brilliant” but said he had nonetheless asked for the provision of the accommodation to be deferred because of the coronavirus.
Cllr Harvey said he sent a text to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan on Tuesday asking for the deferral and received a reply this morning saying his concerns were noted and the Minister would be in touch.
The Fianna Fail councillor said he now accepted that the provision of accommodation was not being deferred.
“It can't be deferred but I texted him on St Patrick's Day to ask him to consider deferring it because of the epidemic,” he said.
“It's the people of Tullamore and Offaly I'm concerned about.”
Cllr Harvey said all of the questions he put to the management of the centre this morning were answered, apart from his query about Covid-19.
“I asked were they tested for Covid-19 and no-one could answer that,” he said, adding his other concern was whether or not the asylum seekers were aware of the precautions they should take as they go around the town.
“My biggest fear is we have old and sick people in town. Every family is saying they're doing their bit, but do these people understand how serious it is?
“It was a question that was asked and they couldn't answer it.”
The councillor did say he presumed the new arrivals did understand the steps they should take to prevent the spread of the virus because he was told they were “very educated” and were “up to speed” on the issue.
Cllr Harvey said he was “very impressed” with the accommodation and the facilities for the residents.
“The place is top-class, the bedrooms, the whole lot, it's like a mini-hotel.”
He said there was a range of accommodation being provided, with one-bed, two-bed and three-bed units, and everything he saw was “excellent”.
The councillors viewed the bedrooms, the kitchen and cooking facilities, the shop, the launderette and toilets and showers.
The Department of Justice says up to 168 people seeking international protection will be accommodated in the Marian Hostel, an adjacent building and two other buildings across the street.
When the Tullamore Tribune called to the Marian Hostel this morning, a staff member said the press were not being admitted and preparations were continuing in advance of the arrival of the residents.