A NIGERIAN MOTHER who sought asylum in Ireland back in 2006 has said she is supporting her local residents in Co. Leitrim in their protests against a new refugee centre.
Adeola Talabi, her husband and their two young sons settled in the town of Ballinamore 13 years ago, and speaking to the Irish Independent, Adeola spoke of the "very welcoming and supportive" community that accepted her and her family with open arms.
But now, she says she "wholeheartedly" supports local residents' protests against a refugee centre that would look to house 130 immigrants from abroad.
The town is at the centre of a controversy amid plans that an apartment block will become "a glorified prison" for those seeking asylum.
"The local people are entitled to know what extra provision has been made by the Government, for example, to educate the children and care for their health needs," Ms Talabi said.
"Has provision been made to help teach English to these poor people if they are from a country like Syria so that they can communicate, and what services will be there if there are traumatised children and adults in the group who require counselling services?
"This is a huge number of people for a small place like Ballinamore.
"When we came here first to the direct provision centre, there were 48 of us and it was still difficult for us even though the people were welcoming - how can they cope with 130 people, and how will those people cope?"
A 'crisis meeting' was allegedly held in the town on Sunday night to discuss the government plans and was attended by more than 450 local people.
Organisers of the protest issued a statement yesterday noting their "complete opposition" to the plan because it's "completely disproportionate to the needs of both the asylum seekers and the community at large".
A spokesperson for the Community Council - a strictly non-political organisation - called on the Department of Justice to immediately halt the re-housing programme and "listen to the people of Ireland" to re-evaluate its policies.
Despite the opposition, Adeola was quick to praise the collective spirit and warm nature of the community which welcomed her so openly 13 years ago.
"I and my family are very much part of this town and we stayed here because the people of Ballinamore are very welcoming, accommodating and very, very supportive," she added.
"I have never encountered any type of racism or xenophobia, they are beautiful people."