10 August 2020 - The Irish Refugee Council have today released a major new report (download available here) on Direct Provision and the Covid-19 pandemic. Titled “Powerless” Experiences of Direct Provision during the Covid-19 pandemic, the report is based on a survey completed by approximately 418 people (5.4% of the population of Direct Provision) living in 63 different Direct Provision and emergency centres. It includes quantitative and qualitative data, copies of key correspondence, a chronology of events and recommendations. It is an unparalleled insight into life in this system during these extraordinary times. The survey found that: 

  • 55% felt of respondents unsafe during the pandemic
  • 50% were unable to socially distance themselves from other residents during the pandemic
  • 42% shared a bedroom with a non-family member
  • 46% shared a bathroom with a non-family member
  • 19% of people who were working had lost employment due to the Coronavirus crisis
  • 85% of respondents stated that the daily expenses allowance of €38.80 was not enough to live on
  • 85% of respondents stated they felt that they had received enough information about Covid-19
  • 78% have had access to sanitizer  

Download Report

Nick Henderson CEO of the Irish Refugee Council stated:

 “The pandemic continues and Direct Provision is particularly vulnerable to the virus because it is a congregated setting, as demonstrated by the recent outbreaks in Kildare as well as the earlier outbreak in Cahersiveen in April. The report is an insight into people's lives and experience during the pandemic. ‘Powerless’, the title of the report, is a direct quote from  a respondent to the survey, reflecting one of the major themes of the report: that people were powerless and unable to control their immediate surroundings and situation as the pandemic worsened. Many respondents spoke of an inability to socially distance themselves from others due to sharing bedrooms, bathrooms, laundry facilities and canteens and kitchens. More positively, the report found that the majority of respondents felt that they had received enough information about the pandemic and had access to WiFi and sanitizer. Some also reported assistance and help from centre managers.” 

 “The report also makes various recommendations. Until and unless single or household occupancy accommodation is provided, Direct Provision will remain vulnerable to outbreaks. We also call for the closure of the Skellig Star Hotel in Cahersiveen and the review and closure of other emergency accommodation locations, such as the Central Hotel in Milton Malbay. We also recommend an increase to Direct Provision Daily Expenses Allowance, for at least the duration of the pandemic. More generally it is important that the authorities continue to ensure access to the protection process and that process itself continues to restart.”    

The report is divided in to the following four themes: 

1. Safety and space:

Respondents stated:

“Plenty [of] adults and children living under the same roof, people share a lot [of] facilities that may not allow proper social distancing. If one person gets infected it will be hard to control the spread no matter the measures taken.”

“It’s Direct Provision, we are sharing…what scares me is the fact we come last.”

“We are powerless, just sitting ducks waiting to die.”

“We are so many in the centre we go to the canteen for food, we use the same machines for laundry. With this we can’t keep social distances.”  

2. Mental health, stigma and racism:

Respondents stated:

“I do not want to send my child to school here, we had a bad experience while the community rejected us saying ‘covid people’. [Threw us] out of the supermarket and told us not to come out of the building. It’s a stigma on us to continue here.”

“My experience is so saddening. [There are] 22 Covid cases here. We cry out to be moved for safety in vain. I am still living in an infected room for my roommate tested positive of Covid. The local residents are scared of us we are in total lock down and not safe. I am always in a state of fear.”  

3. Children, Schooling and Parenting

Respondents stated:

“Now our children do not go to school and this is a problem for us, they do not receive education and can not study remotely because we do not have the opportunity to do so. It is impossible to organize training in one room where there are 4 people in a locked room.”

“Not easy at all. My boy is always looking out from the window hoping that his teacher would come and get him.”

“They are finding this situation very difficult because we are living in one space. It’s depressing and claustrophobic.”

“It’s difficult to explain to children about the pandemic, that’s a problem on its own but then not being able to sit out in the provided living rooms because they are overcrowded is even [more] stressful.”  

4. Supports

Respondents stated:

“I think our managers are really good and are trying their best to inform us about the Coronavirus, l personally appreciate their effort.”

“Since I moved [centre] I have had no bad experience during the Coronavirus crisis. I really appreciate being here and all measures taken, I feel safe to be here.”

“When you raise a complaint to management you become an enemy.”

“There is no stimulation and we just sit around all day waiting for this to be over. There is nothing offered in the centre or community.”

“The management seems to be ignoring my pleas.”

- ENDS -
Note for Editors:
  • The report “Powerless” Experiences of Direct Provision During the Covid-19 Pandemic is available here
  • The report was written by Nick Henderson and Vikki Walshe
  • The Google Forms survey was circulated to and completed by those living in Direct Provision, providing a snapshot of people’s experience of the pandemic between 1 April and 7 June
  • Contact: Nick Henderson, 0858585559