Asylum seekers appeal for safe housing after Covid-19 outbreak at Co Kerry centre

Residents at a direct provision facility in Cahersiveen seek help from Government

Asylum seekers living in a direct provision centre in Co Kerry have appealed to the Government to transfer them to safe accommodation following an outbreak of Covid-19 at the facility.

In a statement on Wednesday, residents at the former Skellig Star Hotel in Cahersiveen called on the Government to “immediately transfer” them to “suitable and safe housing, and moving towards own door, turnkey accommodation”.

There have been 23 confirmed cases of Covid-19 at the facility. The residents said these include staff and children, one of whom is seven years old. “These residents have since been moved from Kerry to Cork and some back to Dublin,” said the group.

“Action needs to be taken immediately by the Irish Government if Ireland is to ensure that human rights are upheld. Irish taxpayers who are funding this system must also canvass their Government to end direct provision and stop private operators profiting from our suffering.”


The group said pre-existing trauma has led to many residents “re-experiencing their traumatic experiences daily including suicidal ideation”.

“We have been working with members of the local community who support us and who are volunteering to carry our message and experiences to the Irish public so we can be heard and they can understand what we are dealing with,” it said.

"Despite Ireland's chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan saying it is not possible to observe social distancing when sharing a bedroom with people who aren't part of your family, 120 of us were moved to the 56-roomed Cahersiveen hotel with shared rooms, common eating and living areas.

“This created a Covid-19 cluster in an institutional setting where the ability to practice social distancing or quarantine is impossible.”

In a statement, a spokesman for the Department of Justice and Equality did not directly address the demands of the residents but said they have been asked to self-isolate.

“The HSE has asked all other residents in the hotel in Caherciveen to isolate, as would be the case for any other person in the country, under the HSE guidelines,” he said.

“We understand that an isolation situation is difficult. Indeed nothing about life in a pandemic is easy for any person in Ireland.

“A dedicated outdoor area for exercise for residents within the hotel grounds has been put in place by centre management during this time. They have also put in place arrangements to ensure that any items residents require can be ordered from local shops and delivered to the centre.

“While residents have been asked by medical experts to self-quarantine, like everyone else, they are asked to adhere to the guidance and the door to the centre remains open at all times.”

The spokesman added that residents at the centre are there are on a voluntary basis while asylum applications are processed.

“We would point out that the system of direct provision, which provides accommodation, all meals, medical care, education, transportation for medical appointments and a host of other services, is optional,” he said.

“Applicants for international protection are offered these services by the State and can choose to avail of them, or can choose to reside elsewhere while their protection claim is being assessed.

“There are currently 75 residents in the centre which has a capacity for 150 residents. A HSE Community Care Worker is at the Centre five days per week.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter