Parents express concern over Ukrainian refugees set for former Limerick school building

The former Salesian School at Fernbank is to be used as accommodation for asylum seekers. Photo: Google Maps.

THE MAJORITY of people and parents in the Salesian Primary School at Fernbank in Limerick City are eager to help and support the Ukrainian people fleeing war who are to be temporarily accommodated in a former school building on the same grounds.

That’s according to John Lannon, CEO of migrant support organisation Doras, who told the Limerick Post that he has had a lot of feedback from people who are “horrified that there might be protests about people fleeing a war zone arriving in Limerick”.

This comes as a group of parents of children in the Salesian Primary School have expressed deep concern that placing up to 251 people in 19 converted classrooms is not the right decision and constitutes severe overcrowding and a potential danger to their children.

One parent who is worried about the situation, both for the migrants and for her child and other pupils in the school, is Deirdre Lawlor from Caherdavin.

Speaking about the asylum seekers destined for temporary housing in the former school build, Ms Lawlor told the Limerick Post: “These are deeply traumatised people and I have every sympathy with them. God knows what they have experienced where they came from, it is deeply unfair to them to cram them into a space this size, with that many people to a room”.

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Ms Lawlor said her additional concern, and that of other parents, is that the accommodation is on the same school grounds as the current primary school.

Asked about her fears over the accommodation sharing grounds with the primary school, she said that she feared overcrowding could spark “violence”.

“There could be drugs, there could be drink, there could be violence, and that could spill over,” she said.

Ms Lawlor said she does not want to be branded as “far right” or “xenophobic” for voicing her concerns, adding that “I am speaking as a mother concerned about child safety”.

Separately, a University of Limerick researcher working in the field of asylum seeker and migrant health has raised the issue of a leaflets being distributed door to door in the vicinity of the Salesians school, which read: “251 unvetted refugees to be housed in Salesians Secondary School… There has to be alternative accommodation as the children’s safety cannot be guaranteed”.

There is no information printed on the leaflet about the author or the distributor. Referring to it, researcher and Limerick woman Anne Cronin said the “spreading of misinformation under the guise of concern has to be called out”.

Ms Cronin, who works closely with asylum seekers in her professional research capacity told the Limerick Post that “there is no foundation for the claims that are being made” as regards the vetting of those entering the country under the international protection system.

“There are systems in place now to vet everyone coming in, which is why people are initially kept at reception centres,” she said.

“There are refugees in centres all over the country, in much greater numbers than in Limerick, that have been in operation for nearly two years now without any adverse incident.”

The Department of Children Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth, which is responsible for placement, is satisfied that when conversion works are finished, the building will meet building regulations and standards for emergency  accommodation .

Doras CEO John Lannon told the Limerick Post: “We hope Limerick will continue to welcome people from Ukraine and elsewhere, just as it has done up to now.”

“The people who will arrive at the rest centre in Fernbank are just ordinary people who have got caught up in war, and, like the hundreds of others who have come to Limerick, they are trying to find safety and protection.

“Their children will go to school, they will get jobs, and they will become part of our communities when they get to settle down.

“From our work at Doras, we know how difficult forced displacement is for people. The experience of having to leave a home that has been bombed is not easy. But by extending a hand of welcome and friendship, we can all help to make the transition to a new life in Ireland easier for newcomers.”

Mr Lannon said he knows people want to help and added there are “plenty of ways that people can help to make a difficult situation easier for the people who have to stay at Fernbank”.

“Organise welcome events, invite them to the local clubs, see what they need that they could not bring with them. And from what we hear that is what many of the people living nearby and the primary school parents will be doing.”