RESIDENTS of a controversial direct provision centre in Kerry have been moved to hotel accommodation in Cork to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19.
An unknown number of residents of the centre in Cahersiveen, based at the former Skellig Star Hotel, were transferred to the Cork hotel following outcry over the lack of social distancing space at the Cahersiveen facility.
The Cork hotel has also been used as a location for asylum seekers from other parts of the south west who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
There have been 25 cases of Covid-19 in the Skellig Star, sparking calls from migrant rights groups for asylum seekers to be moved out and the centre closed due to its unsuitability.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan again apologised yesterday for the manner in which the Cahersiveen centre was opened but said he had no choice but to use the former Skellig Star Hotel in March due to the impending coronavirus crisis.
It's understood the residents who were moved to Cork will stay in the hotel here for two weeks to self-isolate.
After each person leaves the hotel, the rooms are sealed off and deep cleaned before being used again for self isolation of other people who have contracted the virus.
There is ready access to medics at the Cork location, and temperature checks are taken regularly.
The location has been sourced by the Department of Justice, which has responsibility for direct provision.
Sources told The Echo that plans for such a facility were put in place early in the Covid-19 crisis, amid fears that high numbers of direct provision residents would be infected because of living in a congregated setting.
It is understood that approximately 170 direct provision residents across the country have been diagnosed with coronavirus.
The residents in Cahersiveen were transferred to the Skellig Star Hotel from Dublin on March 18.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice said: "While we can confirm that we do have a self-isolation facility in Cork, as well as three others in Dublin, Limerick and Dundalk, we do not confirm the locations of those centres in order to protect the right to privacy of our residents."
Minister Flanagan acknowledged there was “upset and anger” at the circumstances in which the Cahersiveen centre had opened, saying: “It was fast. I admit that. It left little or no time for engagement. I admit that. It was presented as a fait accompli. I admit that too. All I can say in my department’s defence is we simply did not feel we had a choice.”