Ballinamore community calls on government to halt plans for ‘integration centre’

A large crowd attended a meeting last night to discuss ongoing concerns over plans to open an “Integration Centre” for asylum seekers in Ballinamore

Shannonside FM understands that up to 300 people attended the meeting which was advertised among locals through a text message at the weekend describing as a “crisis meeting”.

In a statement to Shannonside FM from the Ballinamore Community group, it’s claimed that residents wish to express their “grave concerns” and opposition to proposed housing of 130 asylum seekers in an apartment compound in the town”.

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The statement claims that the community are aware of the government’s commitment to housing refugees as part of an EU program, and they believe that asylum seekers who may be coming to Ballinamore are being treated as a “commodity.”

The statement goes on to call on the government to begin a program of “proportional provision, and have described plans which they claim would increase the population of the town by 15% overnight as “bordering on criminal”.

The statement concludes by stating that two types of people are not welcome in Ballinamore- racists and people traffickers and they are calling on the government to halt the proceedings immediately.

The statement in full is below:

STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF BALLINAMORE COMMUNITY GROUP

The people of Ballinamore in Co. Leitrim are proud of the fact that our town has been known for many many years as “The Friendly Town”. We have always welcomed visitors and new residents to the area with open arms.

The town and the community has developed steadily over the years and has managed to sustain itself through tough times of economic hardship, primarily, through the hard work of local volunteer bodies.

At this point, however, we wish to express our grave concerns and complete opposition to, the proposed re housing of 130 asylum seekers in an apartment compound in the town.

We are fully aware, and supportive of, the government’s commitment as part of the EU to accommodate those who would seek refuge from war, famine or persecution but we feel that the proposed resettlement of such large numbers of people in such a small community is completely disproportionate to the needs of both the asylum seekers and the community at large.

Proportional norms, when it comes to the resettlement of refugees or asylum seekers, is recognised as being between 1 and 2% of population. The numbers being considered for Ballinamore exceed 15%.

These unfortunate people are being treated as a commodity and are being shoehorned into accommodation sites in large numbers throughout Ireland at an ever increasing rate. It is plain to see that this policy has failed and the only reasons it is still being pursued is that it offers the maximum bang for the buck for developers and investors in accommodation sites and it is a convenient way for the Department to get large numbers of people off their books in one go.

The wealthy investors who back these projects and supply “social infrastructure” to the state have no concern for either the people in provision centres or the communities in which they are placed.

The people of Ballinamore were the last to know of this proposed relocation and were informed of the plans after a contract was signed between the developer and the Department.

There has been no public consultation on this matter whatsoever. The deal was done and then the people were told.

The idea of provision centres and that of housing large numbers of people in closed quarters has failed. It is time for the department to listen to what people saying and enact a policy of Proportional Provision. Proportional to the needs of those in provision and proportional to the capacity of the communities into which they are being placed.

To give an indication of employment opportunities in Ballinamore, the largest employer in the town by a considerable margin is the local supermarket! Our young people have to travel to the cities and large towns to find sustainable employment. To drop off any number of people in a town like Ballinamore and expect them to find a job or to raise a family is crazy. To increase the town’s population by 15% overnight, or even over a short period of time, is bordering on criminal.

We are fully aware of the negative spin that can be put on situations like these and have seen recently where people who have stepped forward to represent their communities have been accused of forms of racism.

Let us be clear, there are only two types of people who are not welcome in Ballinamore; Racists and People Traffickers whose aims are to maximise profits on the backs of those less fortunate.

We call on the Department of Justice to halt these proceedings immediately, to listen to the people of Ireland and to re-evaluate its policies on provision centres across the country.