‘Reckless’ treatment of virus-hit asylum seekers

Asylum seekers who displayed symptoms of the coronavirus at the Co Kerry direct provision centre hit by an outbreak were left in their shared accommodation with their roommates pending a positive test, it has been claimed.
‘Reckless’ treatment of virus-hit asylum seekers
Residents from Caherciveen, Co Kerry, want the justice minister to give answers as to what the department has planned for the residents of the Skellig Star direct provision centre.	Picture: Alan Landers
Residents from Caherciveen, Co Kerry, want the justice minister to give answers as to what the department has planned for the residents of the Skellig Star direct provision centre. Picture: Alan Landers

Additional reporting by Anne Lucey

Asylum seekers who displayed symptoms of the coronavirus at the Co Kerry direct provision centre hit by an outbreak were left in their shared accommodation with their roommates pending a positive test, it has been claimed.

The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (Masi) has written to the Department of Justice stating its “grave concern” over conditions at the former Skellig Star Hotel and asking that the residents be moved “out of Caherciveen” as a matter of “good conscience”.

Among the 105 asylum seekers moved to the town last month are some who may have come from a hotel in Dublin which noted an outbreak of the virus on March 8. Since then, 19 people, including a staff member at the hotel, have been diagnosed with Covid-19.

Masi says those at the Skellig Star have been staying in cramped quarters in which social distancing is not possible.

It said that, prior to the enactment of emergency legislation regarding the virus last month, the Department of Justice had refused a proposition that every family or single applicant be accommodated in a self-contained unit as it was “not within our gift”.

Masi further claimed that no social distancing was observed at the hotel when symptoms were first observed in residents there, with those in question being nursed by their room-mates and only being moved to a specialised self-isolation facility in Cork following their positive test.

It also says one female resident was locked out of her room after her room-mate had tested positive and moved into self-isolation, and was thus forced to sleep in another person’s room, and that “no measures” were taken to disinfect the buildings in the complex following the confirmation of the presence of the virus on-site — actions which Masi have branded as amounting to “total recklessness” on the part of the department.

The department did not answer the specific claims of Masi directly when queried by the Irish Examiner, but said it would be responding to the movement “in the normal fashion”.

“HSE Public Health is actively involved with the centre and our department is following all public health advice and instruction received from them,” the department’s ministers Charlie Flanagan and David Stanton said in a joint statement. “Please be assured that the health and safety of asylum seekers receiving services from the department and the health and safety of centre staff and the wider community will continue to be our overriding priorities.”

Sinn Féin TD Pa Daly says an offer by holiday home owners in Killarney to house family units from the Skellig Star was turned down by the Department of Justice.

Mr Daly said he was contacted by a holiday home owner in Killarney offering self-catering type units but the department told him the offer could not be taken up as it would breach the 2km movement restrictions, as well as direct provision rules with regard to food provision.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice last night said: “The accommodation offer has been communicated to the department for consideration by our accommodation procurement team.”

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