- 09 Apr 20
Refugees in Direct Provision centres are among the most vulnerable members of society in Ireland. And yet one asylum seeker, who had contracted the coronavirus, was refused entry to the centre in which he had been living, when he was released from hospital.
An asylum seeker who had tested positive for coronavirus says he was left homeless, after being denied access to a Wicklow-based Direct Provision centre.
Last week, in response to concerns about the spread of the virus in direct provision centres, the Department of Justice stated that it was working with the HSE to "pilot an off-site self-isolation facility" for refugees and asylum seekers who are showing symptoms consistent with having contracted Covid-19.
However, all does not seem to be going according to plan. A resident of the Direct Provision centre at the Wicklow Grand Hotel – a former hostel that was first earmarked to shelter asylum seekers in 2019 – told Hot Press that he was refused entry back into the centre, having been discharged from a Dublin hospital on March 24.
The source – who requested anonymity due to the fear of negative repercussions in the asylum-seeking process – had contracted the Covid-19 virus while working as a cleaner in Dublin.
Having spent six days in hospital, the individual was then discharged, with instructions to self-isolate at the centre for a few more days, before resuming normal activities on April 1.
Hot Press has seen the resident's discharge form, as well as the hospital's letter to the DP centre, which states that the resident would be fit to resume daily activities by the beginning of the month.
The resident's attempts at returning to the centre were met with resistance, however, with the management at the Direct Provision centre at the Wicklow Grand Hotel arguing that they would only follow instructions issued directly to them by the Department of Justice on the matter.
"Maybe you don't understand the seriousness of this situation," a text sent from the owner – which Hot Press has seen – said. "Until I am told that it is safe for you to return by authorities then you can't. I can't accept your opinion on the matter.”
It seems self-evident that there is a serious failure to communicate involved here. It is not obvious who is at fault – but clearly to have a refugee who had been ill with Covid-19 discharged from a hospital and unable to go to his allotted Direct Provision centre is completely unacceptable.
"To be clear [….] I have written to the Department outlining your circumstances,” management at the Wicklow Grand Hotel continued. “You will not be permitted access until I receive the clearance I require from the Department.”
The resident said that he was, in effect, left on the streets and was forced to contact the Social Welfare office for aid.
"The Social Welfare provided an isolation for me for about five days. Then I was moved to [another] hospital," the source said.
When finally allowed to return to the Wicklow Grand Hotel, the resident alleges that he was treated in a very unfriendly and unhelpful way.
In a letter sent by the resident to the Office of International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) – which was shared with Hot Press – the resident complains that a meeting with the management was ‘nothing less than an inquisition’.
"Upon arrival at the Grand Hotel I was met with very hostile and xenophobic reception by the staff and management of the hotel," the letter stated.
"I was marched under the most intimidating and unfriendly atmosphere to the meeting area where my hospitalisation and medical treatment and discharge was cavalierly discussed without any respect to my person or dignity for almost an hour.”
The source also alleges that he was denied access to his belongings for days after his return to the centre.
"I wrote to IPAS and to the human rights the same night. I guess they called them, and my clothes were brought to me in a bin bag," he told Hot Press. "I was wearing the same clothes for two weeks.”
It is worth noting that the Department of Justice had previously said that "no resident will be refused access to accommodation on the basis that they have tested positive for Covid-19.”
Management at the Direct Provision centre involved have not responded to a number of requests for comment from Hot Press.