Asylum seekers living in Direct Provision have told RTÉ News that they fear overcrowding is putting them at risk of Covid-19 infection.

Most share all, or part, of their living space with others. Many are in shared bedrooms, often with two or three others.

Others, like Bulelani Mfaco of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, share bathrooms and kitchens. He says 19 men share the small kitchen and bathroom he uses at the centre where he lives in Co Clare.

Confidence Musarugwa lives at a Direct Provision centre in Clondalkin, Dublin. She says there are three microwaves for almost 300 residents at her hostel. One of her two room mates works outside the centre and could be exposed to the virus when she goes out. 

Asylum seekers are now allowed to work and RTÉ News spoke to four asylum seekers living in four different direct provision hostels.

All said there are healthcare workers living in their hostel. Some work in nursing homes and some work as carers in people's homes. Their jobs expose them to an increased risk of contact with the coronavirus and so too do the conditions in the hostels.

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The Direct Provision residents confirmed that management at their centres have taken measures to protect people.

Ola Mustapha, who lives in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, described how residents now drop a list to the shop at their centre and their provisions are dropped to their door, saving them from queuing up for the shop.

Lesley Mkoko, who lives in Waterford, said people can now eat their rooms in his centre, allowing those who still go to the dining room more space for physical distancing.

Bulelani Mfaco said there was now an extra bus taking people from his centre into town so people had more space to keep their distance on the trip.

But all four agree the measures cannot eliminate the risks caused by overcrowding. They want fewer people sharing rooms and more people allowed to life independently where it would be easier to maintain physical distancing.

The Department of Justice said it is moving to address the issue. It has secured another 650 beds for asylum seekers and these will be used to support vulnerable residents, allow self isolation offsite and give more space for physical distancing in existing Direct Provision centres.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the government has a duty of care for everyone in Ireland regardless of their immigration status. He said the HSE was working with all healthcare workers to help those who need to move from shared accommodation.