Santa Claus will meet Laois asylum seekers at a party this weekend.
Some 300 asylum seekers including almost 100 children living in direct provision centres in Laois and Kildare will be given their first Christmas party together in Portlaoise this weekend.
The Laois Africa Support Group want to give the asylum seekers a kind friendly welcome to Laois.
They have organised a Christmas dinner including a visit by Santa bringing small gifts for the 98 children.
It will take place this Sunday December 8 in St Mary's Hall in Portlaoise from 5pm to 10pm.
Last month the support group arranged a community welcome party for men staying in the East End Hotel in Portarlington, and it was a great success with the local community coming out to meet and greet them. See below pics.
For the first time those residents will meet all the other people from all around the world who are now living in the former Montague hotel, the Hazel Hotel in Kildare and the Hibernian hotel in Abbeyleix, all now direct provision centres.
Bolaji Adeyanju is chair of Laois Africa Support Group.
“We just thought we should do something for them for Christmas. There is nothing for them to look forward to. This is to create a little positivity,” he said.
Bolaji and his volunteers are pulling all the stops to ensure an evening of fun. Santa will have a little gift for each of the children and two DJs have agreed to play for free.
“We asked the management of the centres to help and they were very happy to do it. They are providing busses and a three course meal and soft drinks,” said Bolaji.
While many of the asylum seekers may be Muslim rather than Christian, he said the day is more about a chance to share a happy time all together.
“Christmas is such a big Irish celebration, and they live as Irish people live now. Many are not strictly religious. I am Muslim and I love Christmas,” he said.
The group are undertaking to decorate the hall for the Christmas party too but the one thing they are short of is tables.
“If we have to pay to rent them we will but it would be great to get some,” said Bolaji.
The public are also welcome to contact him to offer assistance including help with Santa's gifts.