Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
Direct Provision System
364. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the outcome of contacts by his Department with asylum seekers living in direct provision centres regarding the opportunities available to them to assist in the effort against Covid-19; the number recruited to the health service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11169/20]
I am not aware of any international protection applicants living in our accommodation centres being recruited through the “Be on call for Ireland” initiative established by the HSE. As the Deputy will appreciate, recruitment to the health service is solely a matter for the HSE.
However, I can say that there are approximately 160 persons living in our accommodation centres who have identified as healthcare workers.
Any healthcare workers living in our accommodation were eligible to apply for accommodation under the HSE’s Temporary Accommodation Scheme announced on 10 April 2020. The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department has been actively encouraging all healthcare workers living in accommodation centres to apply for this temporary accommodation for their protection and that of other centre residents and staff. We have provided information, forms and guidance and have also asked the NGO community to support this initiative and to help to bring it to the attention of residents through their support networks.
Unfortunately, there was a relatively low take-up of the accommodation offers by the health care workers in our accommodation centres. According to the HSE, between 10% and 20% indicated a willingness to accept such an offer. There are many reasons for this, including that some have family in the direct provision centre and do not wish to leave them or the services and supports available in their centre may be greater than what is on offer through the temporary accommodation scheme. We are aware of some cases where the employer has provided accommodation on a temporary basis.
Some residents have chosen to live outside the centre with family or friends and we have confirmed that they will be able to return to their centre when the crisis ends. In addition, as you will appreciate, residents who are working are not wholly dependent on the State and they may choose to source and provide for their own accommodation, at any time, as other workers do.
Any essential workers who continue to reside in our centres at this time are expected to follow the same rules as all residents on adhering to social and physical distancing, good hand and respiratory hygiene and self-isolation measures, as required, for their safety and that of other residents and staff.
368. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if there has been a follow-up or investigation into reports of alleged assaults on residents at a direct provision centre (details supplied). [11189/20]
The Deputy will appreciate that any investigations into alleged assaults are a matter for An Garda Síochána and it would not be appropriate for me to make any further comment on the matter.
More generally, following a number of issues raised in relation to this emergency accommodation premises, officials from the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department recently (4 June) held a clinic via video call with residents of the centre. This was attended by 12 of the 19 residents currently residing at the centre.
The clinic was held off-site in the Miltown Malbay Community Centre and was facilitated by a volunteer from the Limerick and Clare Educational Training Board (LCETB). Other than the residents and the facilitator, only the manager of the Community Centre and the caretaker were present onsite at the time.
Each resident attended their own clinic appointment in a separate room away from the facilitator and the manager of the Community Centre to ensure privacy and confidentiality.
The majority of residents who attended the clinic stated they were happy with the food and with the accommodation in general. A small number of the residents who participated in the clinics stated that the food was not to their liking.
Following the clinics, an unannounced visit was made to the accommodation the next day (5 June 2020) by a senior official from my Department. During this visit, a number of issues raised in recent correspondence to my Office were investigated. I can confirm that during this visit all rooms were viewed and that no health and safety issues were identified. My officials will be following up with management and residents on any of the issues raised during the recent clinics.
IPAS officials previously visited the premises unannounced on 13 February last, on foot of concerns raised by a local support group. During the course of this visit, they inspected all bedrooms and recreation rooms and the kitchen and dining facilities and they had lunch with the residents. I am advised that my officials did not find any major issues to report and the residents they spoke to did not raise any issues about the standard of the centre. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) also carried out a visit to the premises in February as part of a programme of visits to a variety of centres over a two week period. No specific issues were brought to my Department's attention regarding the premises arising from their visit.
It is my Department’s intention is to accommodate all international protection applicants currently living in emergency accommodation in dedicated accommodation centres as soon as places become available. In the meantime, I hope that this information will provide you with some reassurance on the current situation at this centre.