Business leaders and professional service providers in Killarney are calling for proper and timely communication channels to be established with State agencies before any consideration is given to the transfer of additional refugees or asylum seekers to the town.
Concern has been expressed that essential wrap-around services, such as medical care and day-to-day community and supports, are already at snapping point and the town is struggling to cope with the demand.
Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce and the Killarney Asylum Seekers Initiative have both demanded that the International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) and other agencies involved keep Killarney fully briefed on their intentions before any further transfer is even contemplated.
Chamber President Niall Kelleher said the town was delighted to play its part when agreeing to accommodate Ukrainian refugees, mainly women and children, fleeing from the terrors of war, but it is dreadful that the necessary follow-on support services required have not been put in place.
The chamber said while Killarney has probably the highest ratio of refugees and asylum seekers per head of population in the entire country, there has been little or no communication from IPAS, Government departments or the non-governmental organisations charged with sourcing suitable accommodation.
“All too often, the first we hear of developments is when buses pull up outside accommodation centres with people on board. We need to know what is happening so that we can prepare and the only way to achieve that is through proper dialogue,” Mr Kelleher said.
The chamber acknowledged that there is growing concern locally that the State agencies seeking to house refugees and asylum seekers are merely identifying available beds in Killarney – given its tourism base – but there seems to be very little thought going into providing the related professional services required, particularly access to medical services, school places and support systems.
“The lack of access to proper services is not fair on them, it is not fair on the service providers who are under strain and if the current trends continue, it can only lead to a complete systems failure,” chamber stated.
The Killarney Asylum Seekers Initiative (KASI) – which provides key support services to the asylum seekers and refugees – said it simply doesn’t have the staff or the space to cope with demand and there is a complete lack of communication from the agencies involved.
Chairperson Sheila Casey said people are queuing out on the street waiting to be seen but KASI has only four staff and very inadequate office space.
“It’s at breaking point. We can’t cope with the situation, the health service can’t cope and the schools can’t cope with the huge demand.
“There appears to have been no consultations between IPAS and the agencies on the ground. We are being told nothing. Something is going to snap,” she warned.
Because of the pressure placed on KASI services, previous activities such as a women’s group and English language classes have had to be abandoned.
In terms of medical care, local GPs have said they can no longer accept new referrals to ensure they can provide a safe service to existing patients.
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