Inspections of Direct Provision centres paused during pandemic
Inspections of Direct Provision centres have been put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, with less than 10 per cent of scheduled tests completed this year.
The Department of Justice and Equality told the Irish Examiner that of the 135 planned inspections this year, only 11 have been completed so far.
90 of the inspections were due to be carried out by staff within the Department of Justice and Equality, seven of these were completed. And of the 45 inspections that were due to be conducted by private contractor QTS, four were completed.
The inspection programme was paused in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, following a recommendation by the National Public Health Emergency Team at the start of August, COVID-19 testing at the Direct Provision centres is due to start soon and this will inform the department on when they can resume the inspections.
A spokesperson told the Irish Examiner: “The results of the upcoming mass testing and advice from public health officials, with whom we work very closely on these matters, will inform our plans to recommence inspections.”
Concerns for the health and wellbeing of residents at the direct provision centres were raised last week by human rights organisations.
Nasc, a human rights group which focuses on migrant and refugee rights, have called on the government to ensure inspections are carried out and they have recommended the task is delegated to an independent agency.
Fiona Finn, CEO of Nasc, told the Irish Examiner: “Arguably in a time of crisis in direct provision centres, as residents raise serious questions about food quality and their physical conditions, the role of continued inspections should have been clear. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Skellig Star Hotel in Caherciveen.”
She continued: “The National Standards which are due to come into force in 2021 require inspections of direct provision centres to be carried out by an independent body and we would urge the government to appoint HIQA to this role and to resource them appropriately.”