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Calls to shut direct provision centre where 'if you stay you will get Covid'

  

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Outbreak: The Skellig Star hotel in Cahersiveen. Picture: Don MacMonagle

Outbreak: The Skellig Star hotel in Cahersiveen. Picture: Don MacMonagle

Outbreak: The Skellig Star hotel in Cahersiveen. Picture: Don MacMonagle

There have been 21 cases of Covid-19 at a direct provision centre in Co Kerry, according to an asylum seeker who is staying there.

Brendan Griffin, the junior minister and local TD, has called on the Department of Justice to "see sense" and shut the centre down.

More than 100 asylum seekers were moved to the Skellig Star hotel in Cahersiveen last month. The asylum seekers came from three different direct provision centres in Dublin, and they were relocated to the hotel as part of attempts by the Department to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Azwar Furad (38) told the Irish Independent that an outbreak of Covid-19 at the temporary accommodation has now infected 21 people, including a young child. It is understood that asylum seekers who test positive are being moved to new accommodation in Cork.

"We now have had a total of 21 cases here... You stay here, you get Covid," he said.

Mr Furad, who is from Sri Lanka, had to quit his job in Dublin when he was moved to the centre in Kerry with his wife and three-year-old child.

The group of asylum seekers which were moved to the hotel included nine families with small children. It also included at least one pregnant woman, who has since given birth.

"There is no doubt, 100pc this place is not suitable for kids, this is a disaster," he said.

The asylum seekers have now pinned signs to the windows of the hotel, asking to be moved. Both residents of the hotel and locals have reported cases of asylum seekers being asked to leave local shops amid fears that they are carrying the virus.

"We can't blame them. They welcomed us, they are very nice people. [But] this is a small town, they have a small hospital and it's full already. If anything happens to them, who will look after them?" Mr Furad said.

"This is a very silly move by the Department of Justice. Dublin is a dangerous zone [for Covid-19]. They moved us from Dublin to a safe zone.

"We were not tested before we were put in the new place and they did not keep us for quarantine in the previous hotels before bringing us to this hotel."

There are about 60 rooms available in the Skellig Star hotel, which means asylum seekers must share accommodation. Mr Furad said it should be closed and disinfected.

When the asylum seekers first arrived last month, a local welcoming committee was formed. Helen Richmond, who had helped make welcome signs for the new arrivals, said locals have been dismayed by how the asylum seekers have been treated.

"It's been terrible... They just want out," she said.

Yesterday Brendan Griffin, the junior minister for transport, tourism and sport, called on his own Government to close the direct provision centre in Cahersiveen.

"The circumstances there are just not compatible with the best practice that we have been hearing about in relation to how we deal with Covid-19.

"It's not suitable for more than one person to be in a room if they are not family members and we know that is still the situation in relation to some people at the centre," Mr Griffin told Radio Kerry.

"I would hope that the people in justice and health will see sense and give a directive to relocate the residents."

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said "every person has a right to privacy, including in regard to their medical information".

"Any decisions in relation to the centre will be made in conjunction with the HSE, as have all our decisions with regard to accommodation centres during the pandemic," it added.

Irish Independent