Amid the epidemic, a group of asylum seekers was transferred to a small Irish rural town. Then they started a positive test for Covid-19

Amid the epidemic, a group of asylum seekers was transferred to a small Irish rural town. Then they started a positive test for Covid-19

She was waiting months to decide on her asylum status. But the message was not about that.

“I was afraid for my life,” said Misha, who asked not to use her real name for fear that this might affect his asylum application.

A total of about 100 people have been removed from a handful of centers, including from a Dublin hotel where a guest from Italy is reported to have contracted the virus.

A few days after their arrival, a resident began to show symptoms, according to three people CNN spoke to. Then the rumors started.

“I was scared for my life.”


The Cahersiveen community was given little time to prepare; Locals discovered just a few days ago that Skellig Star – reconstructed in 2006 on a promise to attract tourists with a swimming pool and other leisure facilities – has been turned into a residence for asylum seekers.

Although they did not consult and fear about losing business from the city’s only major hotel, people in Cahersiveen welcomed the group, bringing them clothes and toys. But when news began to circulate that asylum seekers were getting sick and were still shopping in local stores, people in the small town began to panic.

“Rural Ireland would like these people to live in the community … They will be very welcome,” said Jack Fitzpatrick, president of the Cahersiveen Community and Business Alliance. “But this is not the way to do it, to drown 100 people in a very crowded hotel amid a pandemic.”

The outbreak, which quickly spread across the hotel, and which hit 25 people at its peak, was announced on May 20 by the Irish Health Services (HSE) official, but locals and asylum seekers continue to press for the center to close, join together as a united front in A series of demonstrations.

Skellig Star asylum seekers hold up a sign protesting the Covid-19 outbreak on May 7.
Under a system known as Direct Provision, it is supervised by Ireland’s Ministry of Justice and Equality and operated by private companies in Profitable contracts, Asylum seekers are accommodated in emergency accommodation while they are waiting to see if they will be granted refugee status and permission to remain in the country.
Calls to reform the system, initially submitted as an emergency measure by the state in 1999 After the sudden increase in asylum applications, it coincided with sweeping global protests for racial justice after the murder of George Floyd in the United States.
Asylum seekers – many of them from African countries – have condemned the direct rule of “institutional racism” by the government, arguing that no one else in the country is treated in the same way as they are treated.
While assessing their attractiveness, they are provided with free housing, food and facilities, they have access to health care and education, but they have almost no independence and cannot choose their place of residence. And they are Unable to apply for a work permit Up to at least eight months of the application process – expected to continue on a weekly allowance of 38.80 € ($ 43) instead.
Commenting on the comparison between direct rule and the killing of George Floyd earlier this month, Irish Prime Minister Liu Faradkar He admitted that while some of the accommodations provided directly were sub-standard and needed to be changed, “it is ultimately a service provided by the state … that includes free housing, food, heat, lighting, health care, education, and some spending money.”

“It is not like killing a man by the police.”

Decisions on asylum issues in Ireland can take years, a fact that has been criticized United Nations Refugee Agency, Which recently called for speeding up the process. Rejection rates are high – around 70%, according The last numbers. Dozens died pending, according to Freedom of Information request from Irish Catholics.

Not fit for purpose

Ireland Viana failedFine Gael and the Green Party struck a draft deal to form a new coalition government on Monday, which, if approved by members of the three parties, would end months of political deadlock since the country’s election in February. It would also add urgency to reforming the Irish asylum system. One of the main obligations outlined in the agreement is a pledge to end the direct allowance and replace it with a housing policy centered on a non-profit approach.

Liam Thornton, a law lecturer and direct presentation expert, greeted the decision with cautious optimism. He told CNN: “After 20 years of government denial that anything was wrong, it is interesting to see that.” “While we have not been here before, implementation will be the key.”

Thornton TweetDirect savings are one of the darkest chapters in the history of the Department of Justice. But it takes people to design, manage and implement such horrors. New mentalities are needed as quickly as possible.

Asylum seekers, human rights activists, and legal experts such as Thornton say the epidemic has highlighted the structural problems that have long existed in the asylum system in Ireland. Against the background of Covid-19, crowded and poor conditions became more evident.

“HSE, everyone, has advised us about social distance, but you cannot social distance as there is no space,” Misha said.

“We were sharing the bedrooms with strangers. We were sharing the dining room. We were sharing salt shakers. We were sharing the lobby. We were sharing everything. And if you look at the whole situation, you can’t really say it was appropriate for a purpose.”

Skilled Star residents, believers inside the center during the quarantine, chanting

Misha says she saw in terror when people started getting sick around her, before being dragged into the makeshift isolation rooms. The first suspected Covid-19 case was reported at the center early March 24, and the Justice Department admitted, adding that the person was not positive. They did not mention the date of the test.

According to asylum seekers and a former director, the asylum seekers’ test began only weeks later in mid-April. After confirming the positive cases, all Skellig Star residents were ordered to stay indoors and quarantine.

“I have verifiable evidence of a written letter from Skellig Star to the Justice and Equality Ministry on March 24 confirming a suspected case from Covid-19. The resident in question was removed on March 20, one day after his arrival in Cahersiveen, said Kerry Norma Member of Parliament Foley at Special parliamentary committee A hearing about the response of the Coved Government 19.

“The schedule may not be significant for the HSE or the Department of Justice and Equality, but it is very important for Skellig Star residents and the Cahersiveen community. This schedule unequivocally confirms that Covid-19 was transported by bus on March 18 and March 19 to the Skellig Star and Community Cahersiveen. “

In a statement to CNN regarding the timetable, the administration said it had made a “clear mistake” not to receive the March 24 message, and that “there was no attempt by the administration … to intentionally mislead or conceal the facts” related to the outbreak.

“Our biggest fear is a second wave … we fear that it will spread like wildfire in the hotel again, but next time it may pass through society as well.”

Jack Fitzpatrick

After her roommate proved to be positive and was led to isolate herself in another center, Misha believed that someone would move her, so that the room could be cleansed. When no one came, she said that she raised her concerns with a health, safety and environmental worker at the site, whom she told her that there was no cause for concern.

“It was embarrassing for my informant,” Misha said. The test results were positive after 10 days.

The Irish Ministry of Justice told CNN that a health, safety and environmental worker was at the hotel to monitor the health of residents and employees throughout the outbreak, and is now providing more comprehensive support, including access to key health services and integration into the community.

The administration said it continues to work closely with the managers of the Health, Safety and Environment Center and Kahirsevin to ensure the well-being of all residents and employees, including providing private bedrooms for all individual residents and providing improved cleaning services. The center also intends to provide self-catering facilities so that residents can cook in their rooms, instead of eating together in a shared dining room.

Townbe, the company that runs Skellig and three other direct savings centers, did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. The Ministry of Justice said it was unable to comment on the value of the contract with Towne until two years later due to commercial sensitivity.

But the circumstances described by the Ministry of Justice differ greatly with what CNN has described by two asylum seekers and a former director at the center.

Fears of a second disease outbreak

When Misha and other asylum seekers arrived at the Skellig Star in mid-March, they said they found a holiday hotel that was not ready for guests, or willing to deal with the coronavirus. Central heating was broken, the bedrooms – which were smaller than the standard size – were not cleaned, isolation rooms were not created, personal protective equipment was not provided and the personnel were not checked by An Garda Síochána, Ireland’s National Police Service.

Polany Mafako, an activist who has been with Direct Provision since 2017, detailed some of these terms in a Ireland Report of the Asylum Seekers Movement (MASI), And make recommendations for extensive system reforms. Top of the list: Ensuring an adequate standard of living that protects physical and mental health.
Skellig Star residents in a quarantine wave of locals protesting abroad on May 7.

“Cahersiveen explains to us that the model does not work,” MFCO said. “Giving vulnerable people to hotel owners who have not received any training. The risk of gathering all these people, crowding them onto a bus, and transporting them to a remote village far from any health care services has not been considered.”

Jack Fitzpatrick and other local residents fear that these healthcare services will be excessive in the event of another outbreak.

The nearest large hospital to Cahersiveen, with a population of about 1,000, is 40 miles away. There are only two doctors in Cahersiveen, and one ambulance serves the remote Iveragh Peninsula, where the city is located.

“We were very fortunate that no one died in the hotel, and we were able to stop the spread of the virus on a large scale in society,” Fitzpatrick said.

“Our biggest fear is a second wave … we fear that it will spread like wildfire in the hotel again, but next time the community may pass too. So we are doing our best to try to get them to lock it and move people to sort the accommodations.”

Townspeople are demanding the resignation of Justice Secretary Charlie Flanagan, who say they have misled the public over the outbreak of Covid 19 in the Skill Star.

“We should be given at least the status of permission to stay so that we can get our own housing, cook our own meals and keep ourselves and our families safe from the virus.”

Faward’s Visitors

Phalangan apologized to the people of CahersiveenHowever, he said that his administration was not aware of the infection at the Dublin Hotel before the asylum seekers were removed from it.
In the aftermath of the outbreak, Flanagan asked the former Secretary-General Conduct a review From management response to Covid-19 at direct supply centers such as Cahersiveen.

Ciaran Quinlan, from Cahersiveen, told CNN he was seeking a court order to close the center. He says he wants to “help these people obtain their own housing at home, and to move them out of the inappropriate accommodations where they are.”

Azouar Faward, an asylum seeker who worked as a spokesperson for the 70 remaining residents in the center, calls Flanagan to grant an amnesty to Skellig Star residents to stay in Ireland.

Foward, originally from Sri Lanka, was moved from the same Misha Hotel in Dublin with his small family where they began to feel settled. Both Faward and his wife found work in the capital, making friends, and their three-year-old daughter started going to preschool. He said that moving away from another life was a double shock.

Now he says that the three-person family is largely confined to a 12-by-13-foot room, with an en suite bathroom and no cooking or washing facilities.

“We must give at least the status of permission to stay so that we can get our own housing, cook our own meals, and keep ourselves and our families safe from the virus,” he said.

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