The Ombudsman’s Annual Report on Direct Provision asylum centres, published on 23 April, says that the Covid-19 crisis has underscored how “unsuitable and unsustainable” the physical constraints at these centres are, in particular because of the lack of overall space in the facilities and their lack of resources. The standards provide “a minimum space of 4.65m² for each resident per bedroom.” This represents “little more than the floor space taken up by a double bed and it includes any storage units a person might have.’’
On 23 April, the Department of Justice announced that people at these facilities who are suspected of having the virus are to be moved to a dedicated offsite self-isolation facility.
More than 100 asylum seekers were transferred to a new asylum reception site in Cahersiveen in late March. It was placed on lockdown shortly after when several residents tested positive for Covid-19. On 29 April, 21 cases of Covid-19 were reported at this Direct Provision centre, according to an asylum seeker staying there. Around 90 residents remain in the centre and some are sharing rooms as. A protest was organised by the asylum seekers outside the centre.
Local politicians have called on the Department of Justice to shut the centre down. Residents are concerned for their safety. Members of the local community have also called for the closure of the centre. Asylum seekers who test positive to Covid-19 are transferred to a new accommodation in Cork.
As part of the government’s measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak, any information gathered about undocumented migrants during the COVID-19 crisis remains secret. This “firewall” between the Department of Health and the Department of Justice and Equality allows migrants to access medical treatment without risking an enforcement action.
According to Niel Burton of Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, as of late April all residents in Ireland can receive a “Pandemic Payment” designed to support the population. However, he said that while this measure is necessary, it isn’t perfect in its application. Bruton, who spoked on the Webinar organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on 23 April, stated that ‘’A lot of undocumented migrants are afraid to put down the employer’s details on the application, or do not have a bank account.’’
Interviews and hearings for international protection application have been suspended until further notice. Assisted voluntary returns are not being processed now, and deportation orders have been postponed. This delay concerns all persons subject of deportation, removal or transfer orders that are due for presentation in the coming four to six weeks.
- Department of Justice and Equality, ‘’Covid-19 Updates and Announcements, accessed on 29 April, http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/COVID-19-updates-and-announcements
- Niel Burton (Migrant Rights Centre Ireland), OSCE Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, ‘’Protecting and Promoting the Rights of Undocumented Migrants and Asylum Seekers in Times of Crisis,” Webinar, 23 April 2020, https://www.osce.org/odihr/450250
- The Journal, ‘’Covid-19 crisis highlights how ‘unsuitable’ some Direct Provisions conditions are, Ombudsman says’’, 23 April 2020, https://www.thejournal.ie/coronavirus-ombudsman-direct-provision-5080939-Apr2020/
- Office of the Ombudsman, ‘’The Ombudsman & Direct Provision: Update for 2019’’, 23 April 2020, https://www.ombudsman.ie/downloads/DP_Report_2020EMBARGO.pdf
- E. Coyne, ‘’Calls to shut direct provision centre where ‘if you stay you will get Covid’, The Independant, 29 April 2020, https://www.independent.ie/world-news/coronavirus/calls-to-shut-direct-provision-centre-where-if-you-stay-you-will-get-covid-39166386.html
- C. O’Sullivan, ‘’Direct provision residents and locals call for centre closure’’, RTÉ, 28 April 2020, https://www.rte.ie/news/2020/0428/1135443-direct-provision-cahersiveen/
- A Resident of the Skellig Star Direct Provision Centre in Cahersiveen Taking a Picture of the Front Window of the Hotel, (Alan Landers, “Special Report: How Accommodating Asylum Seekers Turned Into a Billion-Euro Industry,” Irish Examiner, 27 April 2020, https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/specialreports/special-report-how-accommodating-asylum-seekers-turned-into-a-billion-euro-industry-996215.html)