- 28 Jul 20
Problems with local drinking water are just another problem heaped on top of the many that already exist in the direct provision centre in Skellig Star Hotel in Cahersiveen, say residents. They feel that they have been left with no option but to take dramatic action: going on hunger strike…
Asylum seekers living in a Direct Provision Centre in the Co Kerry town of Cahersiveen have gone on hunger strike, this morning.
The hunger strike action is being taken to draw the attention of the Department of Justice to their demands.
Residents at the controversial Skellig Star Hotel have told Hot Press that hunger strike seemed like the sole remaining means of protest available to them, against a system that has continuously ignored their plight.
For the past four months, asylum seekers at Skellig Star Hotel have asked the Department of Justice to move them.
The calls for transfer from the Skelllig Star Hotel began in April, following a serious outbreak of coronavirus at the centre – which compelled HSE officials to impose a hard lockdown on the Kerry-based asylum seekers.
The lockdown led to the confinement of residents for a month.
Residents have said that the experience has had an adverse influence on the mental health of both adults – and more specifically – child residents at the centre.
Starving for Justice
Residents have reiterated their demands to Hot Press. These include access to social workers and mental health professionals, as well as an immediate transfer to a better accommodation.
“It is almost four consecutive months of living in an inhumane condition at Skellig Star Hotel Direct Provision,” the residents said, “and the past and present government have not done anything to help us from this open prison.”
The residents told Hot Press that the Department of Justice and the International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) – a branch in the Department tasked with accommodating refugees – has ignored all of their communications and requests for transfer.
“We have sent emails several times highlighting how we have suffered physically, socially, mentally and emotionally due to the treatment received in the hands of IPAS during Covid and post-Covid,” they said.
“We have been traumatised and for us to recover from this, we need to be all moved out of this accommodation immediately by the Ministers, Deputy (Roderick) O’Gorman and Deputy (Helen) McEntee, to appropriate accommodation centres.”
About 41 asylum seekers, including nine children, still live in Skellig Star Hotel.
“As you know, we have gone through a lot, and nobody cared about us,” one resident told Hot Press. “We have suffered in every area – and we are still suffering.”
To complicate matters further, Cahersiveen is currently dealing with tap water safety issues. As a result, in recent weeks safe water has been rationed to two litres per day, at the centre.
Residents, however, had told Hot Press that the problem was not communicated to residents properly and residents who did not speak English continued to drink tap water.
Asked if any inquiries have been made to IPAS in relation to access to safe drinking water, one resident told us that they are “tired of complaining to the same people that put us here.”
“It’s a waste of time and energy,” the individual said.
Mistakes and Apologies
The outbreak of coronavirus in Skellig Star Hotel – extensively reported on by Hot Press, followed the transfer of over 100 asylum seekers to Kerry from Leitrim and various, as yet undisclosed, locations in Dublin, in mid-March.
A group of residents were transferred from Travelodge Hotel, where an outbreak of coronavirus was reported to the HSE earlier in March.
It was later revealed that the health authority had failed to notify the Department of Justice about the outbreak.
Last Month, it was revealed that residents began to report symptoms of coronavirus within the first few days of being transferred.
The Department of Justice made an apology to the Irish Times confirming that one resident showed symptoms of coronavirus in March, adding, however, that the individual tested negative for the illness.
The Department also clarified that the person had not been transferred, as rumoured, from Travelodge in Swords, where an outbreak of coronavirus was originally confirmed early in March.
Following the announcement, Hot Press reported that one female resident of African descent also became ill in late March and was not isolated until April 4, when she experienced a significant decline in health.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told us at the time that "the department does not comment on individual cases” adding that the privacy of residents was of paramount significance for both the Department and the HSE.
Now , with the decision of asylum seekers to go on hunger strike, the crisis has escalated even further.