'Social distancing is impossible here'; Anger at conditions facing asylum seekers in Cork

'Social distancing is impossible here'; Anger at conditions facing asylum seekers in Cork
A photograph from a room in a Direct Provision centre in Cork City centre.

The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) has voiced concerns over the well-being of asylum seekers in direct provision here and say they are being placed in a situation where social distancing is impossible to observe.

Earlier this month, MASI asked members of the public to email Minister Charlie Flanagan to ask for asylum seekers in Direct Provision to be protected by ensuring they are able to observe all the Health Service Executive guidelines on social distancing and self-isolation.

The organisation claims there are disparities in the way each centre is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It said some centres have ceased all congregating in canteens at meal times while others continue as normal with the addition of Covid-19 notices on the walls.

It also said asylum seekers are still sharing bedrooms, which it described as “an untenable situation”.

In a statement, the organisation said it was not surprised to learn that an asylum seeker in a hostel styled Direct Provision centre contracted the virus, but was pleased to hear that he is doing well.

“Asylum seekers around the country are following news and updates from the Health Service Executive on what measures they can take to protect themselves and people around them from the Covid19 pandemic. The guidelines were also posted on notice boards in Direct Provision centres and efforts were made to translate them into some foreign languages,” a spokesperson for MASI said in a statement.

“However, the HSE posters on social distancing are useless to an asylum seeker sharing a tiny bedroom with a stranger or as many as seven other strangers, having to use communal bathrooms and congregate in a canteen for meals three times a day,” the statement said.

It is calling on public representatives to take steps to protect asylum seekers.

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