More than 100 Syrian Refugees at Home in Roscommon

Friendly Pakistani-Syrian soccer games in Roscommon have made recently-arrived Syrian refugees welcome. (Photo: Screenshot / Irish Examiner)

By Adam Farley, Deputy Editor
December / January 2018

Ballaghadereen is a small town in County Roscommon of about 2,000 people, and since March, locals have been working hard to welcome more than 100 Syrian refugees living on the grounds of the defunct Abbeyfield Hotel.

Recently, local barbershop owner Sajjad Hussain, who is also involved in the local Islamic Cultural Centre, began by organizing a soccer friendly between arriving Syrian refugees and the existing local Pakistani community. The games are now weekly and the spectators include friends and family of players and local Irish fans.

“It’s not easy sitting in the hotel all day. You think more and more about your past and lots of people have had really hard times in Syria. It’s nice to forget for a little while and be involved in sport and have a laugh and a bit of fun,” he told the Irish Examiner.

“If something doesn’t touch our hearts when all that happens in Syria, we are not human,” local shop owner Mary said in a November TV3/BBC documentary about the community response. The Syrians are part of an Irish government program pledged to host 4,000 refugees by 2019. Last year, Ireland admitted 760 refugees. ♦

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