Dept won't confirm if Kerry direct provision residents were among delegation moved due to virus

On March 18 and 19, just over a week before the country went on lockdown, 70 international protection applicants who were being accommodated at the Travelodge hotel in Swords, north Dublin, were relocated to two dedicated centres elsewhere in the country.
Dept won't confirm if Kerry direct provision residents were among delegation moved due to virus
The Department of Justice said: "We cannot comment on or confirm the specific locations to which applicants are relocated for their privacy." File picture.

The Department of Justice has declined to confirm whether or not residents who arrived in mid-March at a direct provision centre in Co Kerry, which has experienced a Covid-19 outbreak in recent days, were among a delegation moved from a hotel in Dublin at the same time last month after it also experienced an outbreak of the virus.

“We cannot comment on or confirm the specific locations to which applicants are relocated for their privacy,” a spokesperson for the Department said.

On March 18 and 19, just over a week before the country went on lockdown, 70 international protection applicants who were being accommodated at the Travelodge hotel in Swords, north Dublin, were relocated to two dedicated centres elsewhere in the country.

The purpose of the relocation was to “de-risk, to the greatest extent possible” by ensuring that those applicants were “not residing in any premises that was not in the exclusive use of the Department”, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said.

At the same hotel in Dublin, on March 7, a flight crew from Bergamo, Italy - the epicentre of one of Europe’s regions worst-hit by the virus - checked in, with one of their number falling ill the following day and subsequently testing positive for Covid-19.

The other guests in that delegation were asked to self-isolate until March 22 in their rooms on the site per HSE advice, according to Justice minister Charlie Flanagan.

“My understanding from hotel management is that no other individuals within this group displayed any Covid-19 symptoms within their period of self-isolation,” Mr Flanagan said in correspondence with Kildare TD Catherine Murphy on April 8, six days before four residents at the Skellig Star Hotel in Cahersiveen tested positive for the virus.

“I can say that neither of these centres currently has any confirmed cases of Covid-19 and it is our understanding that in line with HSE advice no further action is required,” Mr Flanagan added. He said that the relocation process “was carried out in full consultation and agreement with the HSE National Social Inclusion Office”.

Ms Murphy had suggested that it was her understanding that “no testing or contact tracing has been instigated” with regard to the 70 applicants who were moved from the Swords facility. She further said it was her understanding that the 70 applicants who moved were subsequently replaced by a further 30 asylum seekers.

Mr Flanagan declined to comment on these assertions at the time, while the spokesperson for the Department of Justice said that “contact tracing is a matter for the HSE”.

“We are not clear as to why you would expect any asylum seekers to be involved in contact tracing as none was diagnosed with Covid-19 while residing in Swords,” they said.

The first 105 of 150 asylum seekers were moved to Cahersiveen on the week of March 18, a move which sparked a row locally with the Department which had denied in January that the Kerry town had been earmarked for a direct provision centre.

Local business leaders were informed on Saturday night last that four people at the Skellig Star centre had tested positive for the virus and had been moved to a special isolation facility in Cork.

Community leaders now say they will not accept the extra 50 residents planned for Cahersiveen under the contract with the centre amid calls locally for isolation and immediate testing of residents together with the observation of strict social distancing protocols, while the Health Information and Quality Authority has also been called on to carry out an immediate on-site inspection of the centre.

Management at the centre have agreed to confine residents to the hotel and grounds and local businesses are delivering produce and pharmaceutical products ordered online to the centre’s door.

Separately, gardaí in Cahirciveen were yesterday called to an incident of alleged assault outside the direct provision centre. A photographer alleged that he had been assaulted by a person he identified as a security person working at the centre on behalf of the owner.

A spokesman for the gardai confirmed that an incident had occurred and it was being investigated.

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