Department announces Covid-19 self-isolation facility for asylum seekers
Charities call for people in HSE risk categories to be moved from ‘overcrowded’ centres
The Department of Justice announced that all direct-provision centres had been asked to “generate a self-isolation capability” for use by persons suspected to have contracted coronavirus. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
An “off-site self-isolation facility” for asylum seekers suspected of contracting coronavirus is to be piloted as part of a range of measures to try and curb the spread in direct-provision centres.
The Department of Justice announced on Monday that all centres had been asked to “generate a self-isolation capability for use by persons suspected to have the virus” .
No visitors will be allowed enter centres to support social distancing and reduce contact. Centres without independent living arrangements have been asked to implement “staggered meal times or to provide takeaway facilities”, said a department spokesman.
A dedicated team for issues relating to Covid-19 cases in direct provision centres has also been established .
Despite repeated calls by refugee support groups for the most vulnerable residents to be moved out of direct-provision centres, the department did not commit to relocating people for the duration of the pandemic.
It is understood some 20 per cent of asylum seekers have pre-existing health conditions.
“The HSE is currently considering the most effective prevention and cocoon measures for the most medically/socially vulnerable residents in the centres,” said the spokesman, adding that the department was working with the HSE to identify vulnerable residents.
The announcement comes two days after residents in a direct-provision centre in the west were informed a person in their building had tested positive for the virus.
A collective statement from the State’s primary refugee support groups, including the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, repeated its call for people within the HSE risk categories to be moved from “overcrowded” centres into hotels or students accommodation hubs.
There are 5,686 people, including 1,739 children, residing in 39 direct-provision centres around the country. There are an additional 1,585 people, including 285 children, staying in emergency accommodation.s