The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland is disappointed to see the government putting a spin on the inability of asylum seekers in many Direct Provision centres to observe social distancing. Asylum seekers in Direct Provision centres across Ireland have to share bedrooms, communal toilets, communal showers, communal kitchens, and canteens with strangers who have their own lives. This makes it impossible to observe social distancing.
This week MASI was contacted by an asylum seeking father who is terrified for his children and pregnant wife as they have difficulty observing social distancing in Knockalisheen Direct Provision centre because they have to use communal facilities daily. Asylum seekers who were moved to newly sourced hotels and new Direct Provision centres are also having the same issue as they are unable to observe social distancing with daily use of communal facilities and bedrooms shared by strangers. And a number of asylum seekers who were moved to some of these hotels where they share bedrooms and other communal areas have tested positive for Covid-19. Asylum seekers who have tested positive and those who have been in self isolation after experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 have reported experiences of stigmatisation.
More disturbing is the newly opened Direct Provision centre in Kerry where toddlers are not being provided with nutritious and age appropriate meals. This is a well documented issue in Direct Provision and it has a negative impact on the children’s wellbeing. We were alarmed when one of our asylum seeking volunteers received a call from a staff member in the Clayton Hotel asking for protocol to be followed when an asylum seeker tests positive for Covid-19. They had just learned about one of their asylum seeking residents who tested positive for Covid-19. When MASI appeared before the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality in the national legislature last year, we raised this matter of placing asylum seekers in the care of profit driven hoteliers who have no idea how to look after vulnerable people.
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland urges the Irish government to source more accommodation to ensure that no single asylum seeker shares a bedroom with a stranger as this situation has already resulted in an outbreak of Covid-19 in several centres where 2 or 3 strangers shared a bedroom. Further to that, the government must ensure that asylum seeking families have self contained units that enable them to observe all the guidelines on social distancing.
And finally, if the Irish government will not listen to asylum seekers who have consistently called for Direct Provision to be abolished, at least listen to the experts. The Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the Faculty of Paediatrics at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland are among bodies who have recently called on the Irish government to end the system of Direct Provision. Ignoring the plight of asylum seeking children who are trapped in state sponsored poverty that robs them of their childhood is a blatant act of cruelty.
About MASI – the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland is a grassroots organisation based in Ireland. We are people who are or have been in the asylum and direct provision system in Ireland, working and advocating together for justice, freedom and dignity for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. Our focus is on the Right to Education and the Right to Work for all people seeking asylum, on the complete abolition of direct provision and an end to deportations.
Bulelani Mfaco: +353 89 474 2911
Mpho Mokotso: +353 83 380 7644
Farai Chiza: +353 83 043 6204