Covid crisis in Direct Provision centres shows urgent need for change
Labour Senator Annie Hoey said the large outbreak of 164 Covid-19 cases in nineteen Direct Provision centres shows the urgent need for change in accommodation standards, and that the Department of Justice response has been too little too late, failing asylum seekers.
Senator Hoey said:
“We now know there are at least 164 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in 19 Direct Provision centres, including nine clusters. Over 1,600 people have been tested so far. Despite many campaigners highlighting the risks facing asylum seekers since the first arrival of Covid-19 into Ireland the response has been too little and too late.
“Serious questions have to be asked of the Department of Justice and how more preventative action was not taken earlier to protect residents. The outbreak that resulted in over 20 cases in the recently opened centre at the former Skellig Star Hotel in Kerry is shocking. Asylum seekers living there need to now be urgently moved to alternative accommodation as it is clearly not a safe place to stay. We need to know why 120 people were originally moved to a 56 room facility, and who decided that? The Department have said there are 75 people there now and it has a capacity for 150 people but clearly it doesn’t have that number of own door rooms.
“It is disgusting to read the statement of a Department spokesperson who in an effort to defend the approach so far said availing of accommodation services through Direct Provision is optional. If that is the attitude that prevails in the Department it explains why so many now have Covid-19. Asylum seekers have been failed.
“The scale of the outbreaks in these congregated settings shows that the current Direct Provision system is not fit for purpose. At a minimum residents should have their own door accommodation that respects their privacy and dignity. Residents should not be treated as though they are in prison but 1,700 people share rooms with non-family members across the system.
“The Labour Party has called for the abolition of the current model of Direct Provision and we want the for-profit system replaced with accommodation that would be provided by approved housing bodies. While that will take time it is no excuse for what has happened in recent weeks. The shocking treatment of residents during this pandemic shows the urgent need now for change, and failings once again of the Department of Justice.”