The establishment of a “Friends of the Centre” group in each centre providing accommodation to persons seeking international protection was a key recommendation of the Report of the Working Group on Improvements to the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers (known as The McMahon Report). All 38 accommodation centres plus the reception centre at Balseskin, have Friends of the Centre Groups.
The purpose of a Friends of the Centre Group is to facilitate links between the residents of accommodation centres and local community, voluntary and sporting groups. It is a contractual obligation for our contractors to provide for Friends of the Centre Groups. The operation of the group is facilitated by staff from the accommodation centre. For example, the operator of the centre must make a room available to facilitate meetings. The composition of each group varies from centre to centre but will include staff members, residents and volunteers from the local community. Officials from the Department will occasionally attend meetings particularly if invited by the group to do so. All aspects of the accommodation system for international protection applicants is kept under continuous review.
The scope of and the types of activities engaged in by the group vary from centre to centre. They reflect the type of residents being accommodated in a centre and also the voluntary groups that are active in a particular locality. For example, the activities engaged in by a group based in a centre that accommodates only single adults will be different to those engaged in by a group based on a centre accommodating families. Examples of groups that have engaged with Friends of the Centre include local Tidy Towns committees, sports clubs, men’s sheds and Mother and Baby clubs. Activities in the centres are eligible to apply for funding under the Communities Integration Fund (CIF). The Friends of The Centre in Ballaghaderreen have received €5,000 funding on 17 September under the Communities Integration Fund for 2019.