The Irish Refugee Council has expressed concern at the “severe disruption” to primary school children being forced to move out of Galway as a result of the closure of Lisbrook House.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter last week announced that, following a review, the closure of the refugee centre on the Headford Road would proceed despite protests from local community groups.
Citing cost as the fundamental problem with keeping Lisbrook open to the end of the school year in July 2013, the Minister acknowledged that closing down family centres during the non-school summer months is a “more desirable option”.
He stressed, however, that the agency responsible for the centre, the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) would be buying beds over a seven-month period in 2013 in order to accommodate residents.
“The cost would be over €2 million and this expenditure could not be justified at a time when resources are scarce and it is essential to use public funds efficiently.”
Arising from the Minster’s review, RIA is now to ensure that families of all those children attending secondary school will transfer to the Eglinton in Salthill so that their education will not be interrupted. These children will continue to attend the same secondary schools.
The agency will also ensure that families with school-going children who will be required to transfer to other centres will be relocated to alternative centres where they can access schools nearby.
The transfer of all 273 residents is set to be complete by late November, with most single residents going to the Great Western centre in Eyre Square, and others to two centres in Limerick City.
Commenting on the closure this week, Irish Refugee Council CEO Sue Conlan raised concerns at the disruption faced by primary school children at Lisbrook House.
“This means huge disruption both for those children and their families but also for their friends and teachers in Galway. The rights of all these children need to be considered and not overridden by financial factors,” said Ms Conlan.
Demonstrations in protest at the Lisbrook House’s closure have continued in the city this week, with the Lisbrook House Residents and Supporters Group staging a candlelit vigil at the centre on Friday and a demonstration at the office of Fine Gael Deputy Brian Walsh on Monday. Deputy Walsh is now seeking a meeting between Minister Shatter and local Oireachtas members on the centre’s closure.