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'We need treatment': McEntee commits to vulnerability assessments for asylum seekers amid fresh calls to close Caherciveen

Ireland is legally required to conduct these assessments, which aim to identify special reception needs for asylum seekers and refugees.

VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENTS FOR asylum seekers in Ireland will be implemented by December amid calls to relocate people living at a former hotel in Caherciveen, Co Kerry, Justice Minister Helen McEntee has confirmed. 

Asylum seekers living at former Skellig Star Hotel went on hunger strike yesterday, saying they’d been “traumatised” living at the centre and were seeking to be moved immediately. 

The Skellig Star has been at the centre of controversy since people were first moved there by The Department of Justice & Equality in March as part of its response to Covid-19. In April, 22 people living at Skellig Star tested positive for Covid-19, prompting calls for its immediate closure. 

Residents yesterday requested access to alternative accommodation and for vulnerability assessments to be carried out. 

Ireland is legally required to conduct these assessments – which aim to identify special reception needs for asylum seekers and refugees – since signing up to the EU Reception Conditions Directive in 2018. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Skellig Star resident Azwar Fuard said people at Skellig Star who have suffered trauma “need multiple treatments”. 

“Do not forget we have been experiencing trauma before coming to Ireland as a safe haven,” he said.

A number of Skellig Star residents have been victims of rape and torture, he added. “We have children who suffered from inhumane treatment,” he said. 

Fiona Finn, CEO of NASC, said Ireland has been “failing” in its legal obligation to implement vulnerability assessments for two years. 

Finn said her organisation has worked with numerous International Protection Applicants who are seriously ill, survivors of rape or sexual violence and survivors or torture who have been “inappropriately transferred” by Ireland’s International Protection Accommodation Service [IPAS].

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Immigration Roderic O’Gorman said yesterday “it is clear that trust is broken between the State and people in Direct Provision”. 

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O’Gorman, who is due to take over responsibility for Direct Provision in the coming weeks, said Caherciveen “is just one part of much wider, more fundamental problems with the Direct Provision system in Ireland” and said while it “will take time” to end the system “we will make improvements to the lives of people living in it”. 

Justice Minister Helen McEntee, in a response to a Parliamentary Question from Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy, confirmed “ongoing discussions” between Justice officials and HSE “to allow for the introduction of vulnerability assessments by the end of the year.”

Fuard said vulnerability assessments should be implemented immediately. “We need treatment. This is why we’re asking to be moved out.”

NASC’s Finn said no assessments had taken place of people’s needs or support services available.

“Transfers [to different Direct Provision centres] are hugely distressing and can significantly disrupt care and jeopardise the health and wellbeing of International Protection Applicants,” said Finn. 

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