Closure: Westbourne Holiday Hostels Picture: Michael Cowhey
A DIRECT Provision centre in Limerick with more than 60 asylum seekers and 12 staff has shut its doors this Wednesday morning, after a ‘vulture fund’ acquired the facility’s loans through Nama.
Residents and staff at Westbourne Accomodation Centre on the Dock Road were issued a closure notice between last Wednesday and Thursday, stating that due “to contractual reasons” the centre would close on Wednesday, January 25.
The Reception and Interception Agency (Ria), a Government department responsible for Direct Provision services in Ireland, said that, since last autumn, it had been requesting Westbourne Holiday Hostel Ltd to carry out repair works for “health and safety”, but that this was “not forthcoming”.
Ria then terminated the contract as a result.
In a statement to the Limerick Leader, Ria said: “[We] can confirm that it has invoked the termination clause of the contract with Westbourne Holiday Hostel Ltd at Westbourne Accommodation Centre, Dock Road, Limerick.
“Despite repeated requests to the contractor from last autumn, a schedule of works to address essential maintenance and to ensure the health and safety of those resident in the centre has not been forthcoming. In these circumstances, the department has no option but to terminate the contract with Westbourne Holiday Hostel Ltd. The contract will terminate on 27 January 2017.”
There are approximately 64 male adults living in the facility, and while a number of them will be moving to local facilities, including Knockalisheen and Hanratty’s in the city centre, others will be sent elsewhere in the country this Wednesday.
Westbourne Holiday Hostel Limited’s borrowings were acquired by the National Asset Management Agency in December 2010.
The Limerick Leader has learned that OCM EmRu Debtco DAC (OCM) — which was incorporated in June 2016 and is a subsidiary of Oaktree Capital Management — acquired the loans from a Nama subsidiary in 2016.
A C17 form — changes to the particulars of the charge holder — was signed by OCM directors on December 16, 2016.
OCM is the same firm involved in the Strand Apartments saga, which saw dozens of residents served with eviction notices this year.
It is understood that the Fire Officer inspected the Westbourne facility on December 20, 2016, after a complaint was made to the department on December 15. Contact was then made with the owners of the property in order to address fire safety issues.
At the close of business on Tuesday, it was understood that staff were still uncertain about their employment status. There are eight full-time and four part-time staff members at Westbourne Accommodation Centre.
According to a source, the facility is “up there as one of the best Direct Provision centres in the country”.
Anti-Austerity Alliance councillor Cian Prendiville said: “Questions must be asked as to why Westbourne Holiday Hostel has apparently not been in a position to carry out the repairs requested by the Reception and Integration Agency since Nama effectively handed over financial control of the centre to one of the world’s richest investment funds.
“As a result of this failure, 12 workers face losing their jobs and 64 asylum seekers face even more upheaval in their lives as they are forced out of their homes yet again. This adds insult to injury for residents many of whom have been waiting in direct provision for years, and have been shoved from pillar to post by the state already,” he said.
Cllr Prendiville said that there was potential that the facility could be turned into “lucrative student accommodation”.