Laois direct provision centre 'in fear' as all to be tested for Covid-19

lynda kiernan

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lynda kiernan

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lynda.kiernan@leinsterexpress.ie

Laois direct provision centre 'in fear' as all to be tested for Covid-19

Asylum seekers living in the Montague Direct Provision centre in Laois are all to be tested for Covid-19 after an outbreak.

There have been "a lot" of confirmed cases in the centre, a former hotel near Portlaoise with 250 residents, according to the co-ordinator of Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI). 

Lucky Khambule says that many are now isolating after testing positive and they are afraid.

"I have been talking to a woman who is now in isolation, not through any fault of her own. She doesn't know how she contracted it and the fear she has is huge. She is stressed, she can't even phone her mother to tell her because her mother will collapse. She is not feeling symptoms but everyone there is suffering, they are traumatised.

"A lot of people are positive, a lot are in isolation. They don't get to see a doctor. A nurse comes to take their temperature. Food is left outside their door with one knock. Whole families are isolating in one room, there is a family of five currently isolating, we have talked to them.

"It is scary, we pray that they will be ok," he said.

He reports that 150 people were tested in the centre last week, and the rest will be done this week. 

Another outbreak has occurred in the Hibernian Hotel temporary direct provision centre in Abbeyleix he said.

"There is also a problem there," Mr Khambule said.

MASI are calling for the urgent removal of people from Direct Provision centres.

"The immediate issue is to move people away from these centres where they will be able to socially distance.

"The policy to close the centres is a big issue that takes time.  For now don't force them to share, if you want to save people's lives, including in the community. Everybody is at risk. Some of them are working in healthcare and mixing in the community. So if we are not taking care of people in direct provision we are neglecting Irish people as a whole. We need to put people's lives first," he said.

"The reactionary approach by the government on issues of direct provision is a disaster waiting to happen. Now is the time to act fast and save the lives of the people, both those who live in these centres and the general Irish public. We are tired of being ignored while the money agenda is put first by the greedy managers and owners of these centres while people are suffering physically and mentally," he said.

Mr Khambule has criticised the Department of Justice who he claims has not followed HSE advice.

"The HSE is making suggestions but their guidance is not followed," he said.

He said that during the earlier lockdown the number of non related people in shared bedrooms went down to two, but since then it has risen to three and four to a room. 

"They are not testing people before they move them in. In May and June they started to test but they did not do them all. The chances are very high to infect each other. People are breathing on top of each other.

"The overcrowding is our main concern. This is what is causing people to infect each other. If a person was living on their own they would be able to reduce the chances of spreading the virus. Communal spaces, bathrooms, toilets, kitchens, everything is shared in direct provision," he said. 

Cases in Laois have risen by 46 in the past 10 days, from 268 to 314.

There have been 37 outbreaks in the past week in Ireland, 21 of them associated with Direct Provision Centres. 

MASI said "we warned this would happen".

"Significant clusters of new Covid-19 cases have been identified in direct provision centres, among the Traveller community and in meat factories, according to advice given to Government by public health officials. We warned this would happen. #EndDirectProvision #PapersForAll #COVID19"

NPHET has warned the government of “significant and growing concerns” about the number of outbreaks among vulnerable groups and those living in direct provision settings.