Covid-19 outbreaks in "vulnerable" accommodation centres where asylum seekers live in shared spaces should “act as a catalyst” to end the direct provision system, a priest in the midlands has said.
Abbeyleix parish priest Fr Paddy Byrne said recent Covid-19 outbreaks in counties Laois, Offaly and Kildare, highlight the “awful realities” facing asylum seekers, many of whom work in local meat plants.
Fr Byrne said the recent outbreaks should “act as a catalyst” for the Government to bring an end to direct provision.
“For the vast majority of these people they are literally locked into a system that is totally inadequate; locked into an environment that’s tight, where conditions are inhumane,” Fr Byrne told RTÉ radio’s.
“If any good should come of this, it (Covid) should act as a catalyst for this new Government to be absolutely determined in eliminating direct provision from Irish society,” he added.
His comments come as a new survey by the Irish Refugee Council (IRC) found that half of direct provision residents said they were unable to socially distance from others. The survey, which involved 418 residents between April and June, also found that more than half (55%) felt unsafe.
The refugee council said shared accommodation must end and also called for the closure of direct provision centres in counties Kerry and Clare.
“Until and unless single or household occupancy accommodation is provided, direct provision will remain vulnerable to outbreaks. We also call for the closure of the Skellig Star Hotel in Caherciveen and the review and closure of other emergency accommodation locations, such as the Central Hotel in Miltown Malbay,” Irish Refugee Council CEO Nick Henderson said.
The Department of Justice said it intends to close the Caherciveen facility this year and that the transfer of residents began last week with further transfers to take place over the coming weeks.
Concerns in relation to the Central Hotel in Milltown Malbay are also being addressed, said the department. "An appropriate resolution for the residents will be implemented shortly.”
The Department confirmed it hopes to publish a white paper on possible alternatives to direct provision before the year-end, after an expert group, led by Dr Catherine Day, submits its report in September.