Fermoy locals set up group to welcome and support asylum seekers

Twenty-four local activists have formed the new local network ‘Fermoy for All’, to welcome and support asylum seekers who are new to the community.
Fermoy locals set up group to welcome and support asylum seekers

FERMOY locals have formed a new network to welcome and support asylum seekers, in light of recurring anti-refugee protests in the town. Picture Denis Minihane.

FERMOY locals have formed a new network to welcome and support asylum seekers, in light of recurring anti-refugee protests in the town.

Twenty-four local activists have formed the new local network ‘Fermoy for All’, to welcome and support asylum seekers who are new to the community.

On Thursday evening from approximately 6pm to 7pm, the latest in a series of protests was held outside St Joseph’s Convent in Fermoy, which is currently home to 63 International Protection applicants, including 24 children. It was organised as part of a ‘national day of action’ to protest against accommodation centres for asylum seekers.

Kate O’Connell of Fermoy and Mallow Against Racism estimates that about 40 people travelled from outside Fermoy to stage the demonstration.

“There was no other protest in the southern region [as part of the national day of action], and so for that reason we had an awful lot of people from outside the area who travelled to Fermoy to participate in the protest,” she said.

“The protest the previous week on the same issue had three people at it. The protest the week before that on the same issue had four people at it. There isn’t an appetite locally for these protests. While the scenes are shocking, for us on the ground in Fermoy we have a good sense of where the town is, and what the town stands for,” she added.

Protesters at the Anti asylum seeker protest in Fermoy on Thursday night. Picture; Eddie O'Hare
Protesters at the Anti asylum seeker protest in Fermoy on Thursday night. Picture; Eddie O'Hare

Ms O’Connell said that this week a group of 24 locals have come together to form Fermoy For All, a support network for asylum seekers living in the town.

“Volunteers have already been able to visit people in the centre three times, volunteers are

assisting families in securing school places, doctors places, there are asylum seekers joining local organisations, local clubs and groups,” she said. “There’s so much positivity on the ground, that what has happened [on Thursday evening] completely misrepresents how the town is feeling and responding to the new centre that’s here,” she added.

Ms O’Connell said “far right activity” is driving more people to become involved in anti-racism and refugee support.

“The outpouring of organisations actively coming to us, from scout groups, to sports clubs, people offering free places to children and young people who are living in the centre - I think the protests are actually pushing people further into that space of solidarity and connection,” she said.

With 25% of the population of Fermoy born overseas, Ms O’Connell said that solidarity is “ultimately what the town is about”.

“We have a really strong vibrant Brazilian community with lots of Brazilians here, we’ve got Polish, Eastern Europeans, we have people from a host of different nationalities… We have an international choir, we have an international garden, we have the Sanctuary Runners. The history of the community up until now has been to create those spaces where people can connect, and so this is a flash in the pan in the story of Fermoy, because the story of Fermoy has always been a story of welcome,” she said.

In a statement to , the Department of Integration said it was aware of the protests in Fermoy, and strongly condemned “any attempt to promote division and hostility towards those who come here seeking safety”.

“[The Department] deplores these protests which are intimidating vulnerable International Protection applicants, many of whom are children who have fled war and persecution and are causing fear and distress for centre staff and management,” they said.

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