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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 14 July, 2020

Asylum seekers continue calls to be moved out of Covid-struck former hotel in Kerry

The have been 22 confirmed Covid-19 cases at the former Skellig Star Hotel.

Former Skellig Star Hotel, Caherciveen, Co Kerry.
Former Skellig Star Hotel, Caherciveen, Co Kerry.
Image: GoogleMaps

ASYLUM SEEKERS LIVING in a Direct Provision centre in Caherciveen, Co Kerry have demanded to be moved out after an outbreak of Covid-19. 

The have been 22 confirmed cases at the former Skellig Star Hotel, which was opened by the Department of Justice & Equality on 18 March as part of its response to Covid-19.

Residents who have tested positive have been moved off-site to an isolation facility. 

Migrant rights activists posted on Twitter last weekend in support of 120 residents living at the centre in Caherciveen, with messages from residents asking to be transferred. 

In a statement today, residents living at the centre called on the Department to move them out and to end Direct Provision. 

Residents said “many of us have fled deeply traumatic situations. Pre-existing trauma means many residents are re-experiencing their traumatic experiences daily including suicidal ideation.

“We have been working with members of the local community who support us and who are volunteering to carry our message and experiences to the Irish public so we can be heard and they can understand what we are dealing with,” they said. 

The campaign comes after health officials confirmed 62 cases of Covid-19 in Direct Provision centres, including nine clusters. Eleven people have been hospitalised. 

The Department yesterday also confirmed that 1,700 people living in Direct Provision continue to share a bedroom with non-family members.

It said these people are sharing a room with either one or two non-family members in 772 rooms across Direct Provision centres. 

Last week, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said sharing a bedroom with non-family members does not allow for physical distancing.

In response, the Irish Refugee Council said the situation of people sharing bedrooms in Direct Provision is “plainly contrary” to Dr Holohan’s advice and said it was “deeply concerning”. 

On Sunday, the Department released a statement after residents at the Skellig Star Hotel claimed they were not allowed leave the premises by management. 

The Department said: “We understand that an isolation situation is difficult but we need to clarify that no one is being prevented from leaving the centre at Caherciveen. 

“The HSE have asked all residents in the hotel to isolate, as would be the case for any other person in the country.”

Testing was carried out at the former hotel by the HSE last week and has now been completed. 

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The Refugee Council, meanwhile, has received legal advice which states that law requires the State to provide safe, own-door accommodation for asylum seekers living in Direct Provision during Covid-19. 

The legal opinion, drafted by human rights lawyer and senior counsel Michael Lynn and barrister Cillian Bracken, said the State’s obligation to protect the right to life “extends to the provision of single or household occupancy units for those in shared accommodation”. 

IRC CEO Nick Henderson has raised concerns around the HSE’s guidance that non-family members sharing a room in Direct Provision are considered a household during Covid-19.

“Firstly, intentionally or not, it seems a workaround to the advice of the Chief Medical Office that non-family members should not share intimate space,” said Henderson.

“The consequence being that there is less or no need to obtain accommodation for people where they can socially distance themselves,” he said.

“Secondly it suggests that people of completely different backgrounds, languages and cultures are deemed to be a household.”

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