Press release 5 May       
Legal advice and Chief Medical Officer statement highlight need for accommodation that allows for social distancing as 1,700 share bedrooms

In response to today's RTÉ report that 1,700 people are still sharing bedrooms with non-family members in Direct Provision, Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, said:

 “It is deeply concerning that, nearly two months since the pandemic began, 1,700 people, approximately 22% of the population of Direct Provision, continue to share a bedroom with non-family members. This is contrary to the advice given by the Chief Medical Officer last Wednesday evening that non family members should not share intimate space.”

 “Legal advice (available here) obtained by the Irish Refugee Council states that the Irish government has obligations that include ensuring an adequate standard of living for people seeking protection and living in Direct Provision. Written by Senior Counsel Michael Lynn and Cillian Bracken BL, the advice states that this includes measures which guarantee their subsistence and protect their physical and mental health.

"The advice also states that this includes the provision of single or household occupancy accommodation as an essential measure to ensure social distancing and to limit the spread of the virus.”

 “We sent the advice with representations on the 24 April to Minister Harris and Minister Flanagan. Minister Harris’ office responded on the 27 April stating that the matter does not fall under their remit. We have not yet had a substantive response from Minister Flanagan”

 “We also wrote to the HSE on 1 May about their statement that non family members sharing a room in Direct Provision are deemed a household. We are very concerned by this direction for two reasons. Firstly, intentionally or not, it seems a workaround to the advice of the Chief Medical Office that non family members should not share intimate space. The consequence being that there is less or no need to obtain accommodation for people where they can socially distance themselves. Secondly it suggests that people of completely different backgrounds, languages and cultures are deemed to be a household."




  • Legal advice available here 
  • Advice was obtained via the Public Interest Law Alliance a public interest law network that seeks to engage the legal community and civil society in using the law to advance social change.
  • Comments of the Chief Medical Officer are available here
  • RTÉ report available here
  • The HSE's direction states: "non-family members sharing a room in our centres are considered to be a household during the COVID crisis and should implement social distancing measures on the same basis."