Treatment of asylum seekers during crisis to be raised in Dáil

The government is to be grilled about the treatment of asylum seekers in Direct Provision during the Covid-19 pandemic in the Dáil.
Treatment of asylum seekers during crisis to be raised in Dáil

The government is to be grilled about the treatment of asylum seekers in Direct Provision during the Covid-19 pandemic in the Dáil.

Ministers are expected to come under severe scrutiny on Wednesday as the chamber reconvenes to debate transport, education and justice, in a week after each sector has suffered considerable public attention.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is expected to hear from a number of TDs about concerns over the outbreak of Covid-19 in Direct Provision centres.

There have been at least 140 cases of confirmed Covid-19 in Direct Provision residential facilities, and recent legal guidance received by the Irish Refugee Council states that Ireland is currently failing to meet its human rights obligations to asylum seekers, due to how the accommodation system is set up.

Most people in the system cannot practice social distancing due to communal bedrooms and living spaces, which makes it impossible for residents to comply with the State's own public health guidelines, and places vulnerable people at risk.

The Green Party, as well as People Before Profit, Sinn Féin and Labour, have been highly critical of the government's response to the issue, as well as a number of human rights NGOs and asylum seeker representative groups.

In the Dáil last week, Green TD Joe O'Brien told the Taoiseach it was "mind boggling" that a centre forcing people into communal bedroom situations had been opened during the pandemic.

It is widely expected that much of Wednesday's questioning will continue in the same vein.

A number of parties have also signalled their intention to flag numerous concerns surrounding the cancellation of the Leaving Certificate exam, which will be replaced by calculated grading, and usage of school data, which would see grades adjusted to bring them into line with the "expected distribution for the school", which opposition TDs have labelled as "school profiling".

On transport, TDs have also signalled that they want further clarity on the 14-day isolation period for people travelling into the country, as well as clarity on people crossing the border.

Questions are also to be raised about how the government plans to fund public transport, following reports the CIÉ – Ireland's Largest Public Transport Provider, could run out of funding by the end of next month.

TDs have also indicated that the readiness of airports and ports to implement safety guidelines as restrictions begin to be relaxed and passenger numbers increase is a cause for concern.

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