Fianna Fáil Councillor asked Department of Justice for asylum seekers' nationalities
"A rumour went around that it was 150 Nigerian men that were coming to the town."
A Fianna Fáil Councillor asked the Department of Justice to clarify the nationality of asylum seekers who moved into Cahersiveen in March, JOE has learned.
Michael Cahill, a member of the Kerry County Council, contacted the Department on foot of what he says was "uproar in the locality".
Over 100 Direct Provision residents were moved to the Skellig Star Hotel in Cahersiveen in mid-March, as the Department of Justice attempted to reduce individual centre numbers in order to implement social distancing and self-isolation requirements.
Due to the rushed nature of the decision, local residents were not informed about the centre, and Minister Flanagan issued an apology to the people of Cahersiveen for the nature in which the residents arrived to the town.
In an email from Michael Cahill to the Department of Justice on 17 March, obtained by JOE under the Freedom of Information Act, the Fianna Fáil councillor says "all types of rumours are circulating. Can you let me know what nationalities we are talking about here. There is uproar in the locality and this is one of the most asked questions."
Speaking to JOE, Councillor Cahill said that there was concern in the community that the residents due to arrive were all male and from one country in particular; "When the news first broke (I was informed on the previous day, the 16th of March) about Asylum Seekers coming to Caherciveen, a rumour went around that it was 150 Nigerian men that were coming to the town.
"I received a number of enquiries from members of the Public in regards to this matter and this was the reason I sought clarification from the Department of Justice. I have submitted many, many questions to the Department, to the Health and Safety Authority, the HSE, to the Ombudsman, the Minister, etc, in respect of this matter."
The Department of Justice refused to comment on the nationality of residents to Cllr. Cahill, saying that the "people involved have a right to privacy. This right is further strengthened in law when a person is an international protection applicant."
They did, however, offer assurances against the potential for the spread of Covid-19 saying that none of the 105 residents transferred had been in Ireland for less than two months. At the time, Europe was the epicentre for the Covid-19 Coronavirus.
Over 20 cases of the virus were later confirmed at the Skellig Star Hotel in Cahersiveen. Councillor Cahill has been a vocal critic of the handling of the opening of the Direct Provision centre in the Skellig Star Hotel, and previously called for Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan to resign over his handling of the crisis.
In a statement issued on 19 April, as the outbreak began to emerge at the centre, Cllr. Cahill said that the movement of the residents had been "handled abysmally", and that "all of these 150 peoples lives have now been put in jeopardy along with many more living locally in the town and throughout the Iveragh Peninsula".