- 05 May 20
The dire situation in the direct provision centre in Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry was further complicated overnight with an additional positive test for coronavirus. Residents remain adamant that the Skellig Star Hotel is not a suitable place for them to live…
Another migrant living in Skellig Star Hotel, a Direct Provision Centre in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry, has tested positive for coronavirus, Hot Press has learned.
The latest resident to fall ill is a woman in her sixties, who is currently waiting to be relocated to an offsite facility.
A major outbreak of coronavirus in the Kerry-based centre in recent weeks has shed light on the dangerous nature of communal living in the presence of a highly infectious virus.
Over 20 migrants, including a seven-year-old child, had previously contracted the coronavirus in Skellig Star Hotel and were transferred to self-isolation facilities in Co Cork.
Speaking to Hot Press, a resident of the centre, said that the newly-ill woman had been in close contact with several other people within the direct provision community in Cahersiveen, prompting fresh concerns amongst the asylum seekers there about their safety.
“If we have been moved and housed in an independent accommodation like we have been clamouring for, then others won’t be exposed,” the resident said.
The resident complained that the apparent official desire to maintain secrecy about the number of residents who have been infected adds to the paranoia and distrust amongst migrants.
“They never told us the numbers,” the resident said. “We counted people when they got on a mini-van that conveyed them to Cork. Once we see the minivan, we know that people have tested positive.”
Residents have told Hot Press that nearly eight more people are displaying symptoms of coronavirus. These individuals are currently self-isolating in their rooms. “They are set to be tested, today,” Hot Press was told.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to Hot Press’s request for a comment.
The Department had previously told Hot Press that the HSE had already completed testing at the controversial centre.
Nearly 105 migrants had been moved from a number of undisclosed locations to the Kerry-based centre in March. It is believed that a number of those people were staying at a hotel in Dublin, where an outbreak of coronavirus had been confirmed on March 8.
Controversy over the infected centre in Cahersiveen rumbled on last week, when the Department of Justice claimed, in a public statement issued on Friday night, that residents were free to leave the building.
“We understand that an isolation situation is difficult,” the Department of Justice statement read, “but we need to clarify that no one is being prevented from leaving the centre in Cahersiveen.
“The HSE have asked all residents in the hotel to isolate, as would be the case for any other person in the country under the HSE guidelines.”
As reported earlier by Hot Press residents say that they are still confined indoors.
“We have residents that tried to go for a walk outside the compound,” Hot Press was told, “and they were turned back by the security guards at the reception.”
A video recorded by a migrant at the Kerry-based centre, which Hot Press has seen, reveals that the resident is advised against leaving the building by a member of staff.
A spokesperson for the Department had also previously confirmed to Hot Press that the urgency of the situation at Cahersiveen had prompted the HSE to recommend special, restraining measures – which included exhorting residents to remain indoors at all times.
The spokesperson also said that any items that migrants might require would be ordered for delivery so that they won’t flout the rules by leaving the centre for shopping.
Residents, however, have told Hot Press that while the centre has put such arrangements in place, the late delivery time has proved problematic, especially for those requiring items from pharmacies.
“We’re still confined indoors. Imagine someone on medication having to wait from morning to 6pm before you can get medication or bottled water. Stipulated delivery time is 6pm, and we have to wait for several hours,” the resident said, “Many people like Albanians, Georgians, Somalians, they speak no English, and can’t express the kind of hardships they experience by staying in this infected area.”
AFRAID TO SPEAK UP
The migrants' unwavering demand is still to be transferred to a safe facility. They argue that the centre is too small and the number of residents – nearly 80 people – too high to achieve social-distancing objectives.
As previously reported by Hot Press, local Sinn Féin TD, Pa Daly, told The Irish Examiner that he had secured a holiday home – with "self-catering" units – in Killarney for asylum seekers who were living in the controversial Cahersiveen centre. So far, that offer has not been taken up by the Department.
The individual with whom Hot Press spoke said that migrants are afraid to speak up. They are concerned that relaying information to the outside or voicing grievances may negatively impact on the asylum-seeking process for them.
“This is a cruel system,” our source said. “There is a constant fear that residents will be reported to the International Protection Office. Every interviewer, always calls the centre to confirm if you have been a good resident. That’s why nobody protests at other centres.”
VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Meanwhile, according to an RTÉ report, nearly 1,700 people are still sharing bedrooms with non-family members within the Direct Provision system.
Earlier in April, a legal opinion, sought by the Irish Refugee Council, argued that the State may have violated fundamental human rights that are guaranteed in the UN’s Human Rights Charter, the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
“Those resident in State-provided accommodation also have constitutional rights guaranteed by the Irish Constitution by virtue of their status as human persons,” the legal Counsel has said. “These rights include, in our opinion, the right to life and the right to physical and mental integrity, encompassing minimum standards of health protection in a time of a public health emergency.”
Commenting on the recent legal opinion, The Green Party’s Spokesperson for Justice and TD for Dublin West, Roderic O’Gorman, said that the State has failed to “meet its human rights obligations to asylum seekers.”
“The State has taken responsibility for these people, and it is letting them down,” Roderic O’Gorman said. “Stories emerging from emergency accommodation and Direct Provision over the last few weeks demonstrate real fear among people living there.
“The Government cannot ignore those pleas, and must make arrangement to move anyone at risk to appropriate accommodation,” he continued. The Green Party agreed yesterday to go into formal negotiations on the formation of a government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
The Direct Provision system was established in 1999 as a response to an increase in the number of asylum applications being received by the State.
Ireland’s Direct Provision system has, in recent years, been the subject of withering criticism by the United Nations as well as various European bodies. A 2013 report by the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) revealed that 90 per cent of Direct Provision residents begin to show symptoms of depression after six months in the system.
In most European countries, refugees and asylums seekers receive financial aid while freely living in a country, while their application for asylum is pending. This arrangement provides them ample opportunities to assimilate in society and learn the language of their hoped-for destiny of refuge.