Asylum seekers left homeless after positive Covid-19 diagnosis

Several asylum seekers recently hospitalised after testing positive for Covid-19 have found themselves with nowhere to live after their recovery.

Health sources have told The Irish Examiner that at least one east coast centre refused to permit two asylum seekers to return to their accommodation last week when they were due to be discharged from hospital.

As a result, one man had to stay longer in hospital than required, while a second man was “left to fend for himself”, the sources said.

The Department of Justice, which this week announced 650 additional beds for asylum seekers, has said “no resident will be refused accommodation on the basis that they have tested positive for Covid-19”.

However, health sources have said several east coast centres are not happy to take such cases back, and that people have been “given the bus fare into Dublin city centre” if a place cannot be found for them.

The Irish Association of Social Workers said it is worried about possible Covid-19 clusters developing in direct provision centres, calling the current reported provision for self-isolation across the DP "wholly inadequate".

The IASW also said it is extremely concerned about vulnerable groups, families, and health care workers in DP.

It welcomed the announcement that 650 additional beds are being made available in DP centres. Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan tweeted that 230 applicants would be relocated in the coming days.

But the IASW said: "It is important to note that it is 650 additional beds that are being provided, not 650 rooms. It is unclear whether these beds will be in an environment where self-isolation and social distancing will be possible.

We are still concerned that clusters of infection will emerge in DP centres in the same way that they have in nursing homes.

The IASW demanded vulnerability assessments be introduced as a matter of urgency, among other measures, and added: "We’’re not safe unless we’’re all safe."

Mr Flanagan said both he and minister with responsibility for immigration, David Stanton, are “very concerned at the vulnerability” of people in direct provision and the ability of these centres to adhere with public health guidelines on social distancing and self-isolation.

Mr Flanagan said the new accommodation will mainly be located in hotels in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

This, he said, is in addition to new mainstream centres which opened recently in Caherciveen, Rosslare and Tullamore, allowing older centres to close.

Non-governmental organisations have been warning for weeks that there is no adequate scope for physical distancing or self isolation in many direct provision and emergency accommodation centres.

A public letter signed by more than 800 doctors, lawyers, public health officials, academics and migration experts addressed to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Government ministers this week warned the health system would be unable to cope if cases of coronavirus become widespread in direct provision centres.

It warned that people will die unnecessarily if the Government fails to provide suitable accommodation.