Some 135 Ukrainian women and children in a Killarney hotel since last March have been given less than 48-hours notice that they are being moved to Co Mayo.
The move is to make way for almost 200 male asylum seekers who have been bussed to their accommodation in Killarney from Citywest, Dublin.
Moving asylum seekers into a hotel and moving out Ukrainian refugees there since March “does not make any sense”, the mayor of Killarney told an emergency meeting of community leaders on Monday, calling for a reversal of the decision to move out a well-settled community.
Some 192 males from Libya, North Africa and Georgia were bussed to the accommodation, Hotel Killarney, on Saturday.
The Ukrainian community in the hotel, including up to 40 school-going children received less than 48-hours notice that they are to be bussed to Westport on Wednesday.
The children attend St Oliver’s National School nearby and several of the women have jobs in the town and were said to be distraught at the decision to move them.
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has said increased numbers of people fleeing the war in Ukraine and those seeking international protection has put pressure on accommodation.
The Minister told RTÉ radio’s News at One that the situation arose because of “significant pressure” on accommodation that had grown in recent times. Mr O’Gorman said he understood that the Ukrainian families had become integrated into the community in Killarney and that efforts were being made through Kerry County Council and NGOs to find alternative local pledged accommodation for the mothers and their children.
“I understand this is upsetting. It is difficult to source accommodation that is appropriate that is why the decision was made to provide this accommodation to those seeking international protection”.
The mayor of Killarney Niall Kelleher called for a reversal of the decision by the State’s International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS). He has also called for health and other supports for Killarney that is now hosting large numbers of asylum seekers and Ukranians.
A meeting took place at the hotel on Monday night at the hotel attended by Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin, the asylum seeker representative body KASI, and school principals as well as Ukrainian representatives.
“We want that decision reversed. How does it make sense we would remove people here since March in order to install others?” Niall Kelleher, mayor of Killarney said.
IPAS is moving people “like pawns on a chessboard,” he added.
Extra tourist properties have come on stream in Killarney now that the high tourist season is past, and the Ukrainians could be accommodated in those premises, if their hotel was now becoming a direct provision centre, he also said.
There are now sone 2,000 Ukrainians in the town under the temporary accommodation provision for Ukrainians, along with hundreds more in direct provision centres.
“We are struggling with the numbers of people coming to the town. We have beds but in Kerry we have in excess now of 5,000 Ukrainian refugees. We need the extra provision in health and other services for the increase in population. We need a temporary increase in GMS to work alongside existing doctors in Killarney,” Mr Kelleher said.
Health including mental health services were already under strain before the arrival of the refugees, Mr Kelleher said.
Meanwhile, a source at the hotel said the Ukrainian women at the Killarney Hotel are distraught. Several are working including seven at the hotel itself. Others are working in businesses in the town centre.
The mayor has now written to Mr O’Gorman calling for the decision to be reversed.