The Department of Justice has said concerns about the spread of coronavirus prompted them to transfer 150 asylum seekers to a new Direct Provision centre in Caherciveen, Kerry. 

The Skellig Star hotel was refurbished in 2017, having been bought by a consortium of Irish and Chinese investors. Although the department had denied plans to open a direct provision centre as recently as January, a statement this week by the Department of Justice confirmed the decision to open the centre.

105 of the residents have already moved into their new accommodation, with the rest to arrive in the coming weeks.

Whilst citing concerns that the aslyum seekers’ emergency accommodation in Dublin was inappropriate in light of the coronavirus epidemic, the department did move to allay some local concerns by confirming 105 of the new residents have been in Ireland since before the outbreak.

“If the concerns locally are that the people may have recently arrived from a region affected by Covid-19, I can confirm that no one in the group of 105 has been in this country for less than two months and all have been health screened by the HSE-led medical team at our reception centre in Baleseskin, North Dublin on their arrival,” the Department said.

Both Cllr. Johnny Healy-Rae and Deputy Danny Healy-Rae criticised the department’s decision, claiming that there was a lack on consultation with the local community.

School places and access to GP services are currently being arranged for the new arrivals, with the 150 people set to use the 56 available bedrooms.

The former hotel was offered to the Department of Justice under an Expressions of Interest process, and the contract is to last at least 12 months.