- 26 Mar 21
Residents in a Tramore direct provision centre, in Co. Waterford, have blamed an outbreak there on staff – who, they say, began to disappear inexplicably from Atlantic House…
There has been a serious outbreak of coronavirus at a Direct Provision Centre in Co. Waterford. Residents at the centre, who are asylum seekers, say that the outbreak followed the ‘unexplained’ absence of staff members.
Speaking to Hot Press, a resident who tested positive for Covid-19 at Atlantic House in Tramore on March 15, said that a staff member stopped coming to work on March 8. Others then also failed to show, Hot Press was told.
“They started disappearing from that Monday, and there were no explanations," said the resident, who is now forced to isolate at Citywest Hotel in Dublin.
More absences followed, raising suspicions among residents that workers may have fallen ill with Covid-19, a disease caused by the coronavirus.
"When they started disappearing, that's how we knew something was wrong,” said the resident.
Residents began developing symptoms of Covid-19. However, the resident who spoke to Hot Press alleged that no confirmation was ever given that the staff had become ill. The resident added that he remembers being told that they were "on a holiday break.”
Request Not To Contact Centres
The resident said he and several other asylum seekers who became ill were not working and therefore were not travelling outside of the centre and were generally avoiding unnecessary journeys.
The resident said he estimated that over 15 people from his centre were isolating at Citywest.
A spokesperson for the Department of Children and Equality declined not say whether or not State contractors had a responsibility to notify residents in direct provision centres if staff had developed symptoms of Covid-19.
“The Department does not comment on specific COVID-19 cases or outbreaks,” said the spokesperson. “All information relating to the medical condition of residents, and health services provided to them, including the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 cases, are matters for the HSE.”
Measures are in place to ensure the health and safety of people living in Direct Provision, they said. "The health and wellbeing of all residents during the pandemic remains the highest priority for this Department,” the spokesperson said.
The Department of Children and Equality has asked journalists not to contact contractors for comment directly.
Atlantic House, has 23 en suite bedrooms, communal living areas and laundry facilities. It has been operating as a refugee accommodation centre since 1999.
Covid Complaints to the Ombudsman
Meanwhile, in the newest report from the Ombudsman on the country's Direct Provision centres, the office has noted receiving several Covid-19-related complaints from asylum seekers in 2020.
“Allegations that staff within direct provision centres were not ensuring compliance with public health guidelines were among the complaints dealt with by the Ombudsman,” the ombudsman office said in a statement.
Residents of Direct Provision centres made 61 complaints to the Ombudsman in 2020, down from 168 in 2019. National travel restrictions, imposed by the Government to curtail the spread of coronavirus, account for the downward trend, the office of Ombudsman has said.
“The decrease was largely due to staff from the Ombudsman’s office being unable to take complaints in person at direct provision centres because of national travel restrictions,” they said.
Speaking today, the Ombudsman said that in-person visits to direct provision centres were the most reliable way of connecting with asylum seekers and hearing their complaints.
“We have found,” he said, “that the best way for direct provision residents to engage with us is through our Outreach programme and our in-person visits to centres. Unfortunately, our visits had to be curtailed in 2020. We will recommence these visits in 2021.”