The Irish Refugee Council wrote to Minister Stephen Donnelly TD and Minster Helen McEntee TD on Friday 12 February emphasising the importance of ensuring access to the protection process and issues and concerns around mandatory hotel quarantine. 

A copy of the letter is available here

Ensuring access to the protection process:

  • Access to the protection process at Irish airports and ports should not be affected by any of the changes made as a result of banning non-essential travel.
  • The right to seek asylum is a fundamental human right, as was restated by UNCHR in January.
  • UNHCR guidance from April 2020 on ensuring access to the protection process during Covid-19 is available here.
  • European Commission guidance from April 2020 emphasises that all applications for international protection must be registered and processed.

Mandatory hotel quarantining: Human rights concerns around mandatory hotel quarantining: we urge you and all Government Ministers to carefully consider the letter and recommendations of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) sent on 19 January in relation to the human rights concerns around mandatory hotel quarantining.

PCR test requirement: we note the guidance on that states that if a citizen has a genuine humanitarian emergency requiring urgent travel, they may not be able to access a test in time. We ask that this be included to non-citizens who may not have been able to organise a PCR test prior to travel. 

Cost of quarantine: some persons may not be able to afford the cost of two weeks in a hotel. This is particularly the case in respect of people who are arriving under family reunification procedures of the International Protection Act 2015 or to seek international protection under that Act. We request that both categories of people are considered in the bracket of travellers who cannot afford hotel costs.

Capacity and prioritisation: we also request that persons arriving in these circumstances be deemed a priority for accommodation if appropriate. We understand from an Irish Times article, published on 11 February, that provision for people who cannot pay and also priority capacity, are being considered as part of the plans for hotel quarantining.

Supports while in quarantine: we urge you to consider the various points made by ICCL in their letter around conditions in quarantine and supports. In addition, people seeking protection may have needs including medical supports and access to legal advice. The isolation of spending 14 days alone in a hotel room in a new country may compound the trauma a person has. Special supports are likely to be needed in such a scenario. 

Family reunification: In addition to the above, the Department of Justice must take every step to process applications for family reunification, which are a right of persons granted international protection under the International Protection Act 2015, and to ensure they have access to Ireland to reunite with their family members. This must include recommencing DNA testing where there is an absence of documentation and accepting applications with DNA testing where documentation has proved identities.