Amid the pandemic, a group of asylum seekers was moved to a small, rural Irish town. Then they started testing positive for Covid-19
Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT) June 16, 2020
(CNN)Misha was living in a hotel in a leafy suburb of Ireland's capital city under the country's controversial asylum seeker accommodation system when a letter arrived.
She had been waiting months for a decision to be made on her asylum status. But the letter wasn't about that.
Misha, and dozens of other asylum seekers at the Dublin hotel were notified that they would be moved to a rural town over 200 miles away, on the west coast of Ireland, due to concerns over Covid-19 spreading through the accommodation, which was also shared by paying guests. She had less than 24 hours to pack her things.
When she was transferred to the Skellig Star accommodation center in Cahersiveen, County Kerry, on March 18, she was hopeful it would be safe. But, after arriving and being told to bunk with another asylum seeker she didn't know, she began to fear the worst.
"I was scared for my life," said Misha, who asked that her real name not be used for fear it might impact her asylum claim.
About 100 people in total were transferred from a handful of centers, including from one Dublin hotel where a guest from Italy had reportedly contracted the virus.
Just days after they arrived, one of the residents started showing symptoms, according to three people CNN talked to. Then the rumors started.
The Cahersiveen community had been given just as little time to prepare; locals found out only a few days before that the Skellig Star — rebuilt in 2006 on the promise of drawing tourists with a swimming pool and other leisure facilities — was being converted into accommodation for asylum seekers.
Despite their lack of consultation and concerns over losing business from the only major hotel in town, people in Cahersiveen welcomed the group, bringing them clothes and toys. But when news began swirling that asylum seekers were getting sick, and still shopping in the local stores, people in the small town began to panic.
"Rural Ireland would love to have these people living in the community ... they'd be more than welcome," said Jack Fitzpatrick, chairman of the Cahersiveen Community and Business Alliance. "But, this is not the way to do it, to plunk 100 people into a very congested hotel in the midst of a pandemic."
The outbreak, which swiftly spread through the hotel, infecting 25 people at its peak, was declared over on May 20 by Ireland's Health Service Executive (HSE), but local residents and asylum seekers are continuing to push for the center to be shut down, joining together as a united front in a series of demonstrations.