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Skellig Star Hotel, Caherciveen, Co Kerry. GoogleMaps

Non-family sharing rooms in Direct Provision 'plainly contrary' to public health advice, Refugee Council says

Health Officials have confirmed 62 cases of Covid-19 in Direct Provision centres, including nine clusters.

THE IRISH REFUGEE Council has described as “deeply concerning” the number of people sharing bedrooms in Direct Provision centres during Covid-19. 

The Department of Justice & Equality confirmed today 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.

IRC CEO Nick Henderson today said the situation of people sharing bedrooms in Direct Provision is “plainly contrary” to Dr Holohan’s advice. 

In recent weeks, tensions have risen over the Department of Justice’s decision to move people into a new centre in Caherciveen, Co Kerry where there has been an outbreak of Covid-19. 

Residents at the centre, who have asked to be moved, protested this weekend, saying they were not allowed to leave the former Skellig Star Hotel by management. 

In a statement, 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 last week and has now been completed. 

Health Officials have confirmed 62 cases of Covid-19 in Direct Provision centres, including nine clusters. 11 people have been hospitalised. 

The IRC, 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 Henderson said the advice has been sent to both Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan. 

Henderson also 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.”

The Department of Justice and HSE have been contacted for comment.  

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