BEFORE the summer, Clare will see the arrival of Syrian refugees who will be housed in Sixmilebridge, Shannon and Newmarket-on-Fergus.
At a meeting of Shannon Municipal District on Tuesday, director of services Ger Dollard told the local representatives that 15 to 20 families are to be settled in Clare, with nine of them set to arrive in April or May. These first nine are to be settled in Sixmilebridge, Newmarket-on-Fergus and Shannon.
He also said an inter-agency group has been established to facilitate their settlement in the county.
Mr Dollard told the members that accommodation costs would be borne by the council’s normal funding. However, he said he had no doubt that the allocation received by the council would reflect the extra demands being made.
Speaking afterwards, he said the family sizes would range from three to seven.
“We have set up the inter-agency group and it will require all of their involvement. We have been asked, and I can understand it, that these people not be isolated. In other words, you wouldn’t be putting nine families together but equally you wouldn’t put one family down in one corner of Sixmilebridge and another way over in rural Newmarket-on- Fergus. They will have access to transport, to services and it’s much easier for them to settle in if there are a few in a community,” Mr Dollard added.
While South Clare is seeing the first arrivals, he feels other areas will also house refugees in the coming years. “I would say all parts of Clare will see some level of refugee relocation, as this programme goes on.”
Many other counties will also be taking a share of refugees, he said.
“I think Limerick are involved in the first round as well. Thurles had a group of refugees, which have settled in the last while; Kerry are dealing with a group. I think every county in Ireland will have an involvement in dealing with this issue.”
While integration of refugees has become a hot topic around Europe, particularly after the events on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Mr Dollard feels the new arrivals will be well received in Clare.
“In fairness, I think people recognise that the circumstances they are coming from are pretty poor and there is a human desire to make their life a little bit better.”
Independent Councillor PJ Ryan said the refugees should be welcomed but he noted it is also important that people already on the council’s housing list are not displaced and that there is adequate vetting of those arriving.
Fianna Fáil Councillor Pat McMahon also said the refugees should be welcomed and that they are escaping a terrible situation.
“What these people are escaping from is indescribable. It’s absolute horror,” he said.
By Owen Ryan