US based tycoon wants to house refugees on cruise ship in Dublin

US based tycoon wants to house refugees on cruise ship in Dublin

A FLORIDA-based tycoon wants to bring thousands of Syrian refugees to Ireland – where he will ‘house’ them in a ship docked in a Dublin harbour.

The plan is among dozens sent in to the Department of Justice for emergency reception centres for Syrians fleeing their country’s brutal civil war.

The leading location for the plan is Dun Laoghaire harbour, which is able to handle big ferries and is close to shops, schools and public transport.

The plan is reported to be a joint enterprise by Irish native James Campbell and US Shipbrokers.

US Shipbrokers has previously provided ships for emergency accommodation in disaster zones, including New Orleans and Haiti.

A massive passenger ship, called the Eleftherios Venizelos, was used to process refugees’ applications on the Greek island of Kos, where thousands of people have made the dangerous crossing from Turkey.

Norway and Sweden also plan to use large ships for housing refugees to ease the pressure on regular accommodation on land.

Such ships could also be used to sail to Greece or Lebanon to pick up refugees from close to the areas they are fleeing.

The passenger ships can also be used to provide medical facilities, counselling services and places for religious worship.

James Campbell, a native of Tralee, Co. Kerry, who has experience in the yacht charter market in the U.S., 

currently operates a corporate yachting and cruise company based in Florida.

A spokesperson for his firm Marine Hospitality declined to make any comment when contacted by the Sunday World.

The closing date for submitting plans was last month and a total of 80 proposals have been sent in to the Department of Justice.

The Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROCs) are designed to help refugees settle into life in Ireland.

Unlike asylum seekers, refugees are expected to be accommodated for around six weeks and will be allowed to work or take up studies.

Many of the Syrian refugees who reach Ireland have already been through the asylum process in United Nations centres in Jordan.

One EROC has already been set up in the former Hazel Hotel in Monasterevin in Co. Kildare.

A Department of Justice spokesman said “the offers range over most of the country and cover every type of accommodation”. 

“The Irish Refugee Protection Programme is now considering the expressions received to see which offers are likely to best match their requirement for the establishment of EROCs,” he added.

The assessment phase of the process is expected to take “several weeks”.

“Due to the commercial sensitivity of the offers made at this early stage of the process the Department regrets that it is not in a position to provide details of the premises that have been offered,” he stated.

Meanwhile, controversy has raged over the future of Dun Laoghaire harbour since Stena Line ended its link to Holyhead, leaving a vacant berth in the harbour.

Plans to dredge the harbour to allow massive cruise ships to dock there have been met with vocal opposition.

A majority of councillors recently voted to ban cruise ships longer than 250 metres and instead develop the harbour as a centre for water sports.

Their proposals were inserted into a draft of the county development plan.

At recent planning inquiry last week it emerged that the council authorities had earmarked €1.5 million towards the costs of planning for large-scale berths for cruise ships.

The council’s claim that such a development would bring business to Dun Laoghaire was challenged at the hearing by TD Richard Boyd Barrett.

He said he was disappointed that no-one from the council was at the hearing who could show what evidence they had for this.

The People Before Profit TD said that he hoped Dun Laoghaire would play its part in helping people fleeing the war-torn country. 

“Dun Laoghaire should play any part it can in assisting people to escape from absolutely diabolic situations,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be objecting to anything helping people in a dire situation – we should help people who are escaping the most appalling circumstances imaginable,” Barrett told the Sunday World.