- 07 Jun 20
While the overall figures in relation to containing the Covid-19 threat have been encouraging enough for the Government to accelerate the easing of lockdown measures, fresh outbreaks are occurring in vulnerable groups.
An undisclosed number of people have tested positive for coronavirus in Mosney Direct Provision Centre in Co Meath, the HSE has confirmed.
In a letter to residents, Dr. Declan Bedford, a public health medicine specialist with the HSE, confirms the outbreak of coronavirus at the Mosney centre, advising residents to obey health and safety guidelines to stop the epidemic from spreading. Hot Press has seen a copy of the letter, which was written in Arabic to facilitate understanding for the centre’s Arabic-speaking residents. We have corroborated its content through a translator.
The HSE had previously said that 175 cases of Covid-19 were identified among staff and residents across the country's 84 Direct Provision Centres. However, it has not yet confirmed that this number fully reflects the already reported 14 clusters in Ireland's accommodation centres for asylum seekers.
Unlike most refugee accommodations across the State, in Mosney, asylum seekers have their own apartments, although they share a laundry room. The Co Meath centre, however, is by far the largest Direct Provision centre in Ireland, housing nearly 800 people.
AN INEVITABLE OUTBREAK?
Speaking to Hot Press, a single father of two, who is living in Mosney, said he believed that with the 'vast number of people' living in the centre, an outbreak was inevitable. Blaming staff and managers, he said, would be one-sided and unfair.
“Avoiding pandemics in heavily populated areas is difficult,” he said. “It is better that individuals have had the freedom to decide how to live and run their lives.
“The staff in Mosney are trying their best, always spreading awareness in translated instructions. I can't really blame the manager because it is difficult to enforce so many people to follow instructions all the time. They can't successfully keep an eye on the vast number of people living in Mosney.”
Last week, a spokesperson for the Department told Hot Press that the International Protection Office (IPO) had resumed issuing refugee status to asylum seekers whose cases had been reviewed before the onset of the coronavirus crisis.
RTÉ had previously reported that the procedure was halted for all asylum seekers as part of precautionary measures introduced to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The resident said that Mosney, although overcrowded, ‘is a good place’.
“It is just that the coronavirus has made things challenging here,” he added. “We have separate accommodations, but in reality, these apartments are all connected and attached together through shared entrances. And these apartments are quite small for families – so how long you can make kids stay imprisoned inside?”
THE ENDURING IMPACT OF TRAUMA
The inherent difficulties attached to dealing with the pandemic are made even more complicated by the tragic history of at least some of the residents.
“There are people here who are traumatised, coming from war zones and violence,” the Mosney resident told Hot Press. “I’m not blaming them, but you can’t easily tell them to keep a safe distance. Some people require professional psychological help, especially living here without having a legal status. Isolation and lockdown aggravate their condition.”
Surviving wartime atrocities is damaging to the extent that some scientists believe that the impact of trauma can be passed from one generation to the next.
In 2018, a group of researchers in California conducted a study which concluded that male children of abused war prisoners were about ten per cent more likely to die in any given year past middle age.
There is wide consensus among scholars about the high psychological price extracted from those who end up living through a war.
The resident in Mosney hopes that the Government can find the most suitable space for these people – perhaps the most vulnerable of all in direct provision.
“You tell me how we can navigate the pandemic through all this with kids on board,” he said.
• Main pic shows the housing units in the Direct Provision Centre in Mosney...