Information on Covid-19 for Refugees and Asylum-Seekers in Ireland

As an Irish resident, it is important that you are familiar with all the precautions that can be taken to avoid and prevent infection of yourself and those around you.

Please click here for information booklets from the HSE in a range of different languages, including English, Arabic, French, Farsi, Pashto, Kurdish and Urdu.

How do I contact UNHCR?

UNHCR Ireland is only arranging appointments in person on a strictly limited basis by appointment only where necessary and appropriate in accordance with health and safety guidelines and when arrange in advance.  The protection team remains available to help by email, phone and whatsapp.

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 01 631 4613 

Whatsapp: 089 247 2984

What measures to counter COVID-19 are in place in Ireland?

All counties in Ireland will be at Level 5 midnight Wednesday 21 October.  

You can read more about the new measures in place here:

https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/c36c85-covid-19-coronavirus/​ 

Tracker App

The government has now launched a Covid Tracker App, a free and easy to use app for your mobile phone. 

It can: 

  • alert you if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus
  • advise you on what to do to protect yourself and others
  • alert other app users that you were in close contact with, if you test positive for coronavirus

For more information and to dowload the app, please go here: https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/news/newsfeatures/covid19-updates/covid-tracker-app/

What health and self-isolation advice is available to refugees, asylum-seekers and other vulnerable groups during the crisis?

Asylum-seekers and refugees are included within the national measures to stop the spread of this pandemic. In line with the National Action Plan in response to Covid-19, the government is putting in place specific measures to protect vulnerable groups, including those in direct provision.

Additional information on the government’s measures to protect asylum-seekers, including its contingency planning for centres, can be found here:

https://www.accommodationcentres.ie/covid-19/

Are refugees and asylum-seekers included in health and Government welfare support?

Yes. The Health Care Executive (HSE) has identified groups of people who are at 'very high risk' and 'high risk' from Covid-19. Among these groups are residents of long stay settings, which include direct provision centres. 

The HSE is working with the Department of Justice to implement a series of measures to prevent and control the spread of Covid-19 in Direct Provision Centres. Public Health Specialists are supporting Infection control, prevention and control measures across all  centres.

Meanwhile, critical response teams have identified specific measures that need to be taken in centres, including around handwashing and the visitors.

As in other countries around the world, the United Nations is advocating that everyone, including all migrants, refugees and undocumented people, are ensured equal access to health services and are effectively included in national responses to COVID-19, including prevention, testing and treatment. Inclusion will help not only to protect the rights of refugees and migrants, but will also serve to protect public health and stem the global spread of COVID-19.

What should I do if I am in a vulnerable group?

According to the HSE, the list of people in at risk groups include people who:

  • are 60 years of age and over, people over 70 are particularly vulnerable and should cocoon
  • have a long-term medical condition - for example, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, renal disease, liver disease or high blood pressure
  • have a weak immune system (immunosuppressed)
  • have a medical condition that can affect your breathing
  • residents of nursing homes and other long-stay settings  
  • are in specialist disability care and are over 50 years of age or have an underlying health problem

If you are in any of these groups, please inform the manager in your centre and the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) as soon as possible as further measures may need to be taken in order for you to protect yourself and self-isolate. 

What should I do if I am a healthcare worker and live in Direct Provision?

As a healthcare worker, or someone who provides home support, and lives in Direct Provision, you may be able to apply for alternative temporary accommodation during the pandemic under a scheme established by the HSE.

  • You can apply for temporary accommodation as a healthcare worker if you:
  • live with family members that are self-isolating and you cannot return home
  • live with vulnerable persons
  • require emergency accommodation due to urgent response or mitigating factors
  • require accommodation in order to facilitate rosters
  • share accommodation where you are at an increased risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 (this does not include couples or co-habiting family members who normally live together)
  • returned from overseas and are contracted to work and require accommodation
  • live in congregated domestic living arrangements, for example, a hostel, a direct provision centre

You can find further information on the application procedure and other details of the scheme here:

https://healthservice.hse.ie/staff/news/coronavirus/temporary-accommodation-for-healthcare-workers-during-covid-19.html

Can I leave my direct provision centre during the current crisis?

All direct provision residents are required to strictly comply with public health measures – this is for the protection of all residents. Serious breaches of these measures or overnight absences from the centre, except in order to go to work as an essential worker, may result in you not being allowed to return to your centre. If you need to leave the centre for any protracted period of time it’s important that you communicate the reasons for this to the centre manager.

Any person wishing to return to an accommodation centre having left due to COVID19 must self-quarantine for 14 days prior to returning to the centre.  IPAS has put this procedure in place on the advice of the HSE and to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents and staff of accommodation centres.

For more information, please click here

What to do if you come in close contact with someone who has Covid-19?

It is important that everyone follows public health advice at this time in order to reduce the amount of people affected by Covid-19. In order to do so, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has issued guidance on what to do if you come in close contact with a person who has Covid-19.

You are considered a ‘close contact’ to if you have direct contact with that person for more than 15 minutes in a situation where  you were less than 2 meters away from them during that time.

Examples of close contacts are household contacts or people who share same sleeping space or room with a person who has Covid-19 Sometimes it may also include people who share communal kitchen facilities or communal bathrooms but the local HSE Social Inclusion Specialist will inform you if you are a close contact./ you will be informed if you are a close contact

If you are a resident or staff member in a centre and are  identified as a close contact of a person who has contracted Covid-19, a Public Health doctor or HSE Social Inclusion Specialist will advise you to restrict your movements for 14 days and you will be monitored for symptoms.

This means:

  • You should restrict your movements and stay in the centre you live in as much as possible;
  • You should not have visitors;
  • You should avoid social gatherings, group events and crowded settings
  • You should not go to work;
  • You should not use public transport;
  • You should avoid contact with the elderly, those with chronic health problems and pregnant women.

It’s important that you follow these measures for your own health and well-being and those of others living with you in the centre. Public health measures and restrictions apply equally to all staff and residents.

As a close contact you may receive an information guide such as this leaflet on what measures to take: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/contacttracingguidance/Information%20on%20Close%20Contact%20COVID19.pdf

I live in a Direct Provision centre. How can I social distance myself from other residents?

We understand that social distancing is difficult in group settings. However, the HSE advises that minimising gathering in commons areas of the centre and maintaining a distance of two metres are some of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of the virus.

Everyone in Ireland is urged to stay in their home wherever possible. (see ‘What measures to counter COVID-19 are in place in Ireland?' above for further details)

These measures were initially in place until 12 April but they have been extended as they are making a difference in reducing the spread of COVID-19. These measures are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus and protect everyone .All direct provision residents, like all members of the public, are required to strictly comply with these public health measures – this is for the protection of all residents. Serious breaches of these measures or overnight absences from the centre without explanation other than for reasons set out by the government, may result in you not being allowed to return to your centre. If you need to leave the centre for any protracted period of time it’s important that you communicate the reasons for this to the centre manager.

If you are a close contact of a person who has contracted Covid-19 you will be told to self-isolate for 14 days. (See information on self-isolation above)

If you have the option of living in alternative accommodation during the crisis then you may do so. You will be allowed to return to direct provision once the public health emergency is over.

What happens if I refuse to follow these measures?

The measures introduced across Ireland are in place to protect your health and wellbeing and those of others living with you.

All asylum-seekers and other direct provision centre residents and staff are subject to the same laws as other people in Ireland.

The new emergency legislation in relation to Covid-19 , called the Health (Preservation and Protection and Other Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 gives detention and isolation powers to health officers.

In order to minimise the spread of infection and minimise the risk to human life and public health, the new emergency laws give a medical officer (with the agreement of a second medical practitioner) the power to order the detention of any person who is a probable source of infection.

What steps has UNHCR taken in Ireland to respond?

Since the beginning of the current emergency, UNHCR has worked with the Department of Justice and NGO sector to identify gaps in the government’s response to Covid-19 as it applies to asylum-seekers and refugees and recommended measures to address them. We will continue to monitor the situation and its effect with respect to refugees and asylum-seekers.

UNHCR has recommended that steps be taken to identify vulnerable asylum-seekers so that they can be protected. In addition, UNHCR has liaised with the authorities on communicating with persons of concern including advocating for the creation of up to date information and health advice in different languages. These can be accessed here:

https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/news/newsfeatures/covid19-updates/partner-resources/covid-19-translated-resources/

I am finding it difficult to cope and am very anxious and depressed. Can I get any support?  

This is an increasingly difficult and challenging time for everyone. The HSE has issued guidance on how to mind your mental health during this time: https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/mental-health/minding-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.html

Mental health supports and services are still operating at this time. While its not possible to have face-to-face appointments there are a number of service providers offering online and phone mental health supports and services. For more information see: https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/mental-health-services/connecting-for-life/news/supports-and-services-during-covid-19.html

Can I still make an asylum application?

With effect from Thursday 22 October 2020, Reception at the International Protection Office (IPO) Timberlay House, 79-83 Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2 will be open between 11:00 to 13:00 Monday to Friday to receive new protection applications only.

I am waiting for my IPO interview, will that be affected?

All substantive protection interviews are cancelled from Thursday 22 October 2020 until further notice. The IPO will be in contact in due course with new interview dates.

Applicants with outstanding IPO 2 questionnaires are asked to complete and return the questionnaire as soon as possible. In light of the current circumstances, the IPO will accept electronically completed questionnaires from applicants once they are signed and submitted in hard copy.

The International Protection Office continues to deal with correspondence received but, due to ongoing public health measures, may not be in a position to respond within normal timeframes.

My IPO temporary residence certificate (TRC) and TRC card are due for renewal shortly. What shall I do?

Information on TRC renewals can be viewed here.

You can find a TRC renewal form here. If your TRC is expired or due to expire within the next 3 WEEKS please email [email protected] 

Have hearings at the International Protection Appeals Tribunal been postponed? 

The International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT)  has postponed scheduled hearings from Thursday 22 October 2020 for 6 weeks following Government implementation of Level 5 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19.

Notifications will now issue on rescheduling dates or, if suitable, offering a/v hearing or proceeding on a papers only basis.

The Tribunal, as an essential service, will continue conducting business throughout the 6 week period of Level 5 restrictions. This includes accepting new appeal notices and finalising appeals already heard or those being dealt with on a papers only basis.

I have a work permit but my permission is due to expire shortly. What shall I do?

All immigration permissions due to expire between 20 September and 20 January 2021 have been extended. This applies so long as you have not yet received a final decision on your international protection claim. This also applies to all persons who hold a current valid permission, or a permission that has already been extended under the previous notice(s) that were issued.

For more information, please see:

INIS

http://www.inis.gov.ie/

IPAT

http://www.protectionappeals.ie/

IPO

http://www.ipo.gov.ie/en/IPO/Pages/home

 

Have the resettlement and community sponsorship programmes been suspended?

As countries drastically reduce entry into their territories owing to the COVID-19 global health crisis, and restrictions around international air travel are introduced, travel arrangements for resettling refugees are currently subject to severe disruptions. 

As a result resettlement departures for refugees are currently suspended. This is a temporary measure that will be in place only for as long as it remains essential. These measures also apply to people arriving on the community sponsorship programme.

As resettlement remains a life-saving tool for many refugees, UNHCR and IOM are appealing to States, and working in close coordination with them, to ensure that movements can continue for the most critical emergency cases wherever possible.

Who can I contact for information and advice? 

The Legal Aid Board and NGOs remain available to give assistance over the phone and by email:

 

Legal Aid Board

Phone: 087 4563066.

Available for calls from clients Monday-Friday from 10am-12.30pm and from 2pm-4pm

Irish Refugee Council

Phone: 01 764 5854

Email: [email protected]

Nasc

Phone: 083-3071482

Email: [email protected]

Doras Luimni

Phone: 061 310 328

Email: [email protected]

SPIRASI

Phone: 01 838 9664

Email: [email protected]

JRS Ireland

Phone: 086-6028533

Cultur

Phone: 086-1994655

Email: [email protected]