A GROUP of friends from Dublin have donated 14 new laptops for refugee families living at the temporary accommodation centre at the Riverside Hotel in Macroom.
The residents were delighted when the Chromebooks were delivered to the hotel last week.
One of the group, who prefers to remain anonymous, said he and six or seven friends of his decided they wanted to do something for people in Direct Provision.
‘I had read an article about students in direct provision centres who had no laptops while they were home schooling during the Covid-19 lockdown and it went from there,’ he said.
As a friend of Síle Ní Dhubhghaill – who is a member of Macroom Friends of Asylum Seekers (MFOAS) – he asked her about the situation with residents in Macroom and whether they had access to computer equipment.
‘It seemed like a good way of making an impact on a small group of people. We were thinking about setting up a GoFundMe nationally but we decided we would start here and raised money ourselves.’
They purchased 14 Lenova Chromebooks for the students at the centre.
‘We found out that there are 14 families there with secondary school kids so it has worked out very well in that regard, and also there’s less pressure now on some students as the Leaving Cert has been cancelled.’
He said he got a nice message from one of the families thanking him for the donation and how it made a big difference for their child, who is now able to get involved with their teacher in schoolwork.
Síle Ní Dhubhghaill of MFOAS added: ‘The parents have contacted me to say they are delighted with them and they are making school work much more enjoyable.’
Síle said that residents at the temporary accommodation centre are practising social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic and they haven’t reported any issues or complications there so far.
This comes in the wake of several other reported Covid-19 issues in direct provision centres around the country.
A Department of Justice spokesperson said that they are in constant contact with the HSE in relation to the steps being taken to protect their residents and the staff in all centres.
‘Their health and welfare are our foremost considerations. We are at all times guided by the HSE and National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) in determining our response to the pandemic.’
Measures being taken include staggered meal times, sanitising areas, distributing PPE and putting extra signage in place at the centres.
The spokesperson confirmed that over 850 additional bed spaces have been secured in the past month to allow for the relocation – in consultation with the HSE – of residents to create dedicated off-site self-isolation facilities for anyone diagnosed or suspected of having contracted Covid-19.
Meanwhile, there has been speculation that the hotel is to become a Direct Provision Centre after its owners, Peppard Investments, lodged a planning permission last month to increase accommodation capacity.
However, the Department of Justice told The Southern Star at the time, that the hotel will continue to be used as a temporary accommodation premises.
‘There is no contract in place to alter the nature of the accommodation here, nor has the Department had any involvement in the planning application,’ said a spokesperson.The landmark hotel closed suddenly last August with the Dept of Justice confirming that the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) would be using it as an emergency temporary accommodation premises for families.
Since then members of MFOAS have been liaising with families at the hotel and helping them out in any way they can.