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Clonakilty Lodge residents: ‘We just want respect and equal treatment'

April 3rd, 2019 10:05 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Clonakilty Lodge residents Iwona Zaorska and Soumaya Bouznad pictured in the former shop last Christmas. (Photo: George Maguire)

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RESIDENTS at Clonakilty Lodge Accommodation Centre said that all they are looking for is ‘to be respected and treated equally.’ 

That was one of the key points made by the protestors during their peaceful action at the Direct Provision centre on the Dunmore Road last week.

The centre, which is owned by Alan Hyde and run by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), opened in 2000 and currently houses 100 people, including 40 families of varying nationalities.

The protest was sparked by the visit to the centre the previous day of Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton accompanied by local FG junior health minister Jim Daly. 

Residents felt they were not informed of the visit and missed an opportunity to speak to the Minister about issues affecting them.

Speaking to The Southern Star this week Deputy Daly, himself a resident of Clonakilty, said he had invited David Stanton to the town to see the facility and they had met some of the residents there.

‘I understand that management is addressing the issue directly with residents who weren’t aware of the visit,’ said Deputy Daly.

Evelyn Adoga, a mother-of-one from Nigeria and a member of the residents committee said: ‘We want to be respected and treated equally, as it is unfair to not have any member of the residents that actually live here to meet the Minister and to share their grievances about their living conditions. 

‘We believe that the visit of the Minister should have included meeting residents, or least a representative, and not just management and the owner of the building. We are not fighting or quarrelling – we just want answers and to know what was said at the meeting.’

A Department of Justice spokesperson insisted that the Minister did meet and speak with residents who were present during his visit.

Despite gardaí being called to the centre, the protest remained peaceful and residents outlined their concerns to manager Michael Plichta and assistant manager Marion O’Regan, who is known to many there as ‘mamma’.

The protestors raised issues, including the opening hours of the onsite shop, as well as problems with the clothes dryers. Mr Plichta said that they would look into these, as well as also holding a meeting with residents as soon as possible. He also promised that staff members would be briefed on issues of confidentiality and a better communication process. 

Residents told him they will meet them halfway if management will listen to their grievances, and that regular meetings should be held between management and residents.

‘We have been able to talk to them one-on-one and while I can’t say it was completely successful, at least we were able to speak our minds to them and to tell them what changes are needed and to highlight our frustrations,’ said Evelyn.

‘They have responded to us and we know they will look into the matter and do justice. We’ve asked Michael to set up a meeting with his other staff so he can relay this, so we can all move forward and co-exist here peacefully.’

Evelyn has also called on the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan not to forget the people of Clonakilty Lodge.

‘A lot of people are feeling abandoned and feeling depressed because they have not even been called for their first interview, so they don’t know their status. We want them to look into these delays and give these people some hope. We want them to process the asylum applications faster.’

Despite being granted asylum last October, Evelyn and her child still find themselves living at Clonakilty Lodge because of the difficulties is securing accommodation in the town.

‘Landlords are looking for deposits, which we don’t have, and some landlords do not accept HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) so it’s really difficult for us to start our lives.’

Her case is not unique, as several other residents find themselves in the same situation, with some working but still forced to stay at the centre, due to the difficulties in securing accommodation in the West Cork town.

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