The removal of International Protection Applicants to remote hotels, in overcrowded situations, with little to no information, as well as no option to cocoon, is a significant act of mistreatment and neglect by the state. The residents in these hotels, like the Skellig Star in Caherciveen, have come to Ireland to seek protection from persecution, injury and death, and they have been treated like animals instead of humans.
The state has known for weeks that there was a raised risk of spread in Direct Provision centres, and put in place the most minimal measures. When it was clear that those weren’t enough, residents were bussed from place to place, with no social distancing, and moved into crowded rooms often worse than those they left behind. When covid has spread, only those with multiple symptoms were tested and removed to isolation, while facilities were cleaned in accordance with HSE guidelines and residents were unable to do anything themselves to change the situation because of the management systems put in place by IPAS and the Department of Justice and its private contractors, including the Skellig Star.
According to the Minister for Health Simon Harris, there are now 164 confirmed cases of the virus in Centres. The government’s stock response that there is plenty of capacity in City West to enable self-isolation, including for the 160 healthcare workers living in Direct Provision, is inadequate and ignores the long bus journey this involves for anybody outside Dublin. Instead, the government should urgently provide self-contained accommodation with individual access to sanitation and eating facilities for every family unit and single person in the international protection system. This is the approach recommended by 900 experts in a letter to the government on 31st March.
We in Fingal Communities Against Racism know about the fear, the intimidation and the unsafe living accommodation because we have heard about it directly from the asylum seekers we are supporting around Dublin. We receive messages daily from people who are living in fear, confusion and frustration, and whose whistleblowing about unsafe accommodation is being ignored daily by IPAS.
The situation is urgent.
We cannot wait for more ICU cases and deaths.
We cannot wait for an inquiry after people have died who came to this country seeking protection to save their own lives.
We cannot wait for reports into the long-term impact of Covid-19 on asylum seekers.
We need action now.