School tries to brighten refugees’ Christmas

Generous students raise money to help less fortunate

Refugee children living in a Laois hotel will have toys this Christmas, thanks to fundraising by local teenagers.

Transition Year students at CBS Portlaoise helped to raise €1,200 to buy toys for the 60 refugee children living at the Montague Hotel in Emo.

But Portlaoise PP Msgr John Byrne said the conditions for the 160 adults and children in the hotel were “less than human”.

“It disturbs me that society is able to turn a blind eye, and treat some people as less than human,” he said. “While they are being housed and fed, some families of a mother and three children have lived in a hotel bedroom for six to seven years.”

He is appealing to the Government to consider offering work permits to the asylum seekers. “There are big strong men willing to work,” he said. “Many are fleeing horrendous circumstances. But they are awaiting a decision for six to seven years. It’s soul destroying for them.”

The Irish Refugee Council and Doras Luimni are calling for politicians to reflect on the reality of refugees spending Christmas Day in direct provision centres. For some asylum seekers, it will be their tenth Christmas in the direct provision system.

The IRC and Doras Luimni argue that the international protection system in Ireland, unique in the EU, has caused “severe delays” in the processing of applications and appeals for refugee status. They are asking politicians to establish a one-off scheme that will draw a line under the system that has left some people languishing for years.