Cork direct provision residents 'terrified' to speak out about Covid-19

Cork direct provision residents 'terrified' to speak out about Covid-19

SOME people living in a direct provision centre in Cork have said that they are “afraid and anxious” after an outbreak of Covid-19 was identified there.

Solicitor Anne McShane represents a number of families and individuals around Ireland in their applications for international protection, including residents at the Kinsale Rd direct provision (DP) centre.

Ms McShane told The Echo that some of her clients at the Kinsale Rd centre are vulnerable to Covid-19 due to underlying illnesses or being pregnant and that they are terrified of contracting the virus but also of speaking out.

“Since the lockdown in March, I’ve been contacting my clients throughout the country to check on them and make sure they’re okay,” she said. 

“They’re terrified — and they’re afraid to say anything in case it affects their application for asylum.

“I know people protested in Caherciveen,but that really was the exception,” she added. 

“People are genuinely terrified and worried that if they say they’re not happy with the conditions, it will affect their cases.

“They’re also terrified of getting Covid-19, understandably.”

Ms McShane said she has been dreading an outbreak in direct provision centres for months. She described the Government response to the threat of Covid-19 in DP centres as “appalling”.

“If one person gets it in direct provision, it’s really easy to spread because people are sharing rooms, kitchens, and bathroom facilities,” she said. “It goes against all health and safety regulations, I would have thought.”

Ms McShane called for empty holiday villages across Ireland to be used to house DP residents in a bid to prevent further spread of Covid-19.

She also revealed that she is working with clients who are afraid to go into direct provision centres even though their circumstances may necessitate it. “They have applied for asylum, they’ve no money, no medical card, but they’re afraid to go into the centres because of the conditions,” she said.

“They’re just living hand-to-mouth on somebody’s floor wherever they can find somewhere. Government ministers are getting bonuses but money is not being spent where it’s urgently needed. It’s institutionalised abuse.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said: “The health and wellbeing of all residents during the Covid-19 pandemic is of the highest priority to the department.

“The department and the HSE have worked closely together since the outset of the pandemic to put in place a range of measures for the safety and protection of all residents and staff, including opening additional temporary accommodation to facilitate physical and social distancing in centres,” the spokesperson said. 

“Residents in any centre who test positive for Covid-19 can self-isolate in the HSE’s national isolation facility in City West, other local HSE facilities, or in a dedicated facility provided by the department.

“Neither a refusal to participate nor a positive result will affect a person’s status or application for international protection in any way.”

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