- 20 May 20
There are unlikely to be any celebratory scenes in the Co. Kerry town however. The residents in the Skellig Star Hotel still feel that they should be moved from what remains a controversial centre…
The HSE has declared the outbreak of coronavirus in a Direct Provision Centre in Cahersiveen Co Kerry to be officially over.
In a letter dated May 19, which Hot Press has seen, the health authority thanks the residents at Skellig Star Hotel for their “cooperation and adherence to the Public Health measures” which helped to quell the outbreak at the centre.
The letter notes that from Wednesday, May 20 the period of 'self-isolation' is over and residents are allowed to leave the centre to “shop for essential food and household goods, to exercise or to meet with friends or family in groups of no more than four people.”
Refugees at the controversial centre were not permitted to leave the hotel for the past month, though the Department of Justice has maintained a different, somewhat Jesuitical position by insisting that residents could leave but were under strict advise not to.
There are now 171 people in Direct Provision centres across the State, who have contracted coronavirus, Dr Tony Holohan, the country’s Chief Medical Officer revealed yesterday.
Over 25 people became ill with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, at Skellig Star Hotel since April.
Freedom and Fear in Cahersiveen
Hot Press understands that since the early hours of this morning, various media outlets have been standing outside Skellig Star Hotel, waiting to document the migrants’ long-awaited emergence from the centre.
Residents at the centre, however, told us that they are not too keen to appear outside, and that their original demand for being moved to a self-contained facility outside Kerry, remains intact.
“Many media houses down at the door waiting for us to come out,” a resident told Hot Press, “We have stigma on us. [The experience] has affected our general well-being. Most people preferred to stay indoors.”
Residents argue that, despite the official HSE declaration, the stigma around Skellig Star Hotel may cause people to be suspicious or afraid of migrants, or to assume that they are still infected. For migrants who live with their children, this is of particular concern, as they fear that townspeople's adverse reaction to their presence, may negatively impact on their children's mental health and sense of well-being.
Residents of Skellig Star Hotel had been asked to leave local shops before the HSE imposed restrictions on their movements, in April.
“How will you feel if you go out and people started running away from you? This place is infected,” the resident said, “I believe people here are probably immune against the virus, but maybe they can spread it.”
Many locals in Cahersiveen, however, have roundly opposed the treatment of asylum seekers in Skellig Star Hotel, urging the Justice Department to move them to a safe facility elsewhere.
Journalists and politicians, meanwhile, are continuing to search for the truth, hoping to find out if the Cahersiveen crisis could have been prevented.
Yesterday in the Dáil, Fianna Fáil TD for Kerry, Norma Foley, asked Paul Reid, the HSE Director, if his organisation had failed to inform the Justice Department about the outbreak of coronavirus in Travelodge Hotel.
It has been reported that a number of migrants have been transferred from the Dublin hotel to Cahersiveen, on March 18. A traveller from Italy had fallen ill with Covid-19 at the hotel earlier in March, precipitating an outbreak at the guesthouse.
“Could I set from the outset Mr Reid that Department of Justice claims, unequivocally, that the HSE failed to inform them of a positive case at Travelodge in Dublin that was home to a large group of asylum seekers,” Norma Foley said, “Is this actually correct? That the HSE failed to inform the Department of Justice?”
Ms Foley continued that the Justice Department also claims that the HSE's national office greenlighted the transfer of asylum seekers from Travelodge to Cahersiveen.
“A five-hour bus journey without testing the group prior to leaving Dublin and indeed not testing them on arrival in Cahersiveen,” she said, “ Is this true, is this factual?”
In response, Paul Reid said that the health authority was closely working with the Department of Justice, but declined to comment on the specific case.
Yesterday evening, Journal.ie also reported that it had obtained a letter from the HSE in which the health authority had warned that some Direct Provision centres might be "unsuitable or insufficient" for self-isolation.