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Concerns raised for asylum seekers from Laois facility following Covid-19 outbreak

Concerns have been raised about asylum seekers in a Laois facility following a Covid-19 outbreak.

Around 17 residents of the the Hibernian Direct Provision Centre in Abbeyleix have fallen ill with the virus and have been transferred to the Citywest Hotel for self isolation.

It is believed that some of those have returned but the majority are still in Dublin and according to Abbeyleix Parish Priest, they have been ‘treated horrendously’.

He said: “I am infuriated about this. There has been a massive outbreak of Covid-19 in our Direct Provision Centre in Abbeyleix.

“The residents of the facility were shipped away in the middle of the night to the Citywest where they have been treated horrendously.

“They are living on cold salads and they feel further locked up than they already were.

“Obviously there is a necessity to isolate people when they contract the virus but my point is that why, after the first wave, did the government continue to do nothing to about Direct Provision Centres?

“We have had a terrible outbreak here and many of the people are very sick. The same thing happened in Laois back in August and here we are again – are we learning anything?”

The Abbeyleix Hibernian Support Group has appealed to the government to improve the quality and availability of food to those in the Citywest.

Chair of the group, Marina Rafter, told Midlands 103 that the residents are afraid to complain, in case it impacts their asylum process.

She said: “We have a situation where people are not complaining because they are afraid to complain.

“They are afraid that doing so will impact their asylum process  Therefore no complaints are put forward so we are trying to help them.

“We have residents that have been given formula milk to heat up to put on weetobix.

“They would like to be able to order food in but that is not allowed either so we are really worried for them.”

When contacted about the issue, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said: “The Department does not comment on specific COVID-19 cases or outbreaks.

“The Department does not comment on HSE Self-Isolation Facilities including Citywest.

“All information relating to the food provided including the option to order take-away are matters for the HSE.”

And when the HSE were contacted, they said: “Daily meals prepared on-site and delivered to each room at regular timings consist of: a breakfast (cold); a lunch offering (cold) with hot soup; and a hot evening meal.

“The dinner offering is monitored daily for traceability, food quality and temperature and this is examined frequently by the Food Safety Authority and the HSE.

“To date there have been no issues raised from the Food Safety Authority or HSE representatives.

“Feedback from residents has been overwhelmingly positive in relation to their experience in Citywest.

“Menus are agreed between the HSE and Citywest Hotel on a two-week rotational basis. At triage stage, all residents are asked to outline any dietary requirements that they may have and every effort is made to meet any specific requirement outlined by the resident.

“Both the HSE and Citywest are continuously reviewing the menu offering and will look at the possibility of surveying current residents about their views on the food service in the facility.

“The outputs of any future survey will be used to improve, where possible, the mealtime experience.

“From an access, security and Infection Prevention and Control perspectives, no take-away service will be or is currently permitted at the Citywest Self-Isolation Facility.”

SEE ALSO – Drugs, weapons and cash seized in searches by Laois Gardai

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.