Archive for the ‘antiracism’ Category

CERD - not much use in fighting racism

migrant-boatsOn May 18 the Maynooth University Department of Applied Social Studies is hosting a conference celebrating 50 years to the adoption of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Despite the initial good intentions, CERD has brought about no reduction in racism and racial discrimination. With the global north continuing to wage wars against the global south, whole societies, from Somalia to Afghanistan, from Iraq to Sudan, from Syria to Ukraine, from Palestine to Congo, have been destroyed, producing millions of refugees. Meanwhile, in the global north CERD has done nothing to stop lethal police brutality against black and minority populations, the detention of asylum seekers and the ongoing discrimination against indigenous people.

And what about Ireland? Already in 2004, in response to criticism by CERD regarding its treatment of Travellers and asylum seekers, the Irish government insisted it had no intention of discontinuing its system of dispersal and direct provision which, it said, ‘forms a key part of government policy in relation to the asylum process’. Direct Provision, run by for-profit private companies, incarcerates asylum seekers, many living with hanging deportation orders, not allowed to work, access third level education, or cook their own food, living in limbo, hidden from public view. Despite the obvious infringements of the rights and the everyday racism experiences of asylum seekers’, Travellers’ and other racialised people, the then Justice Minister Michael McDowell responded to CERD by claiming that Ireland ‘has no serious racism problem’ and that it was ‘leading the antiracism struggle in Europe’. Read the rest of this entry »

Launch of UNHCR report ‘Towards a new beginning: Refugee Integration in Ireland’ 3 March 2015, Mansion House, Dublin

Speakers at the launch were UNHCR Ireland director Sophie Magennis, Minister of State at the Dept of Justice Aoghán Ó Riordáin, report author Diana Gouveia, and two refugees, Mustafa Shirzi (Afghanistan) and Nadia Said (Somalia), the latter two expressing gratitude to Ireland for their successful integration. In the audience were mostly refugees (several Syrians commended for ‘creating a vibrant community’…), NGO interns, doctoral students, but very few activists.

The report (Towards a New Beginning: Refugee Integration in Ireland), based on interviews with 71 refugees, recommends ‘best practices’ in the areas of active citizenship, employment, housing, media participation, English language ‘training’, access to information. It recommends shorter stay in the direct provision system, but not its abolition or ending deportations.

The Minister said ‘no asylum seeker wants to be in the DP system’, stressing that the Working group aims to improve the system and that integration is ‘a complex process which requires time’. His general tone was congratulatory, particularly in his boast that Ireland does not have far right parties (it doesn’t need them, it has a government, says I), and his delight in the multiculturality of Ireland which was ‘so boring and monocultural’ during his youth. He highlighted the role of sport in promoting integration but said that integration is ‘about much more than antiracism’… Read the rest of this entry »

Patrick Guerin - Death of an anti-racist

pat-guerinIt was with great shock and sadness that we heard of Patrick Guerin’s sudden death last week. Above all, Pat was known to his friends and many others as a dedicated anti-racist. I first met Pat in 1998 when he enrolled in the MPhil in Ethnic and Racial Studies of which I was the coordinator for the first 15 years. He was challenging, original, and knowledgeable, bringing anti-racism into the classroom and was always keeping me on my toes – a true pleasure to teach. His MPhil dissertation was a set of life narratives of Irish anti-racism activists, but he managed to lose his computer file and to my great regret, never deposited the bound dissertation in the Department of Sociology, thus it is not available for consultation.

Teaching at Masters level means that some of your students and graduates become friends – Pat was certainly a friend. In 1999 he suggested we run a seminar in Trinity, titled ‘Emerging Irish identities’. Though I am a critic of the concept of identity, the seminar was a great success. It was organised jointly by us and by the National Federation of Campaigns against Racism, which, Pat wrote, was formed in March 1999, inviting affiliations from all open, democratic and non-party political groups campaigning against racism. Consisting of eleven groups, the NFCAR supported the right of immigrants to seek meaningful well paid employment; opposed the scapegoating of immigrants for the deficiencies of the Celtic Tiger and the deportation of what was then called ‘non-nationals’; opposed the discrimination against all ethnic minorities including Travellers and supported free movement for all. Concerned about the anti-immigrant hysteria, Pat linked this to his critique of Irish identity as overtly nationalistic, suggesting that ‘emerging Irish identities’ are anything but nationalistic or closed. His interest in anti-immigrant discourses was developed in a chapter he wrote for Racism and Antiracism in Ireland, which I edited with Robbie McVeigh, and which dealt with anti-refugee media discourses in the early 2000s. He developed his writing and editing skills in Asyland, a journal he edited for the Irish Refugee Council for which he worked as an outreach worker. Read the rest of this entry »

Deportations and the culture of incarceration

Talk given at an Anti Deportation Ireland public meeting, 11 April 2013

Culture of incarceration

anti-deportation-irelandAccording to a recent book on coercive confinement in Ireland, Ireland locked up one in 100 of its citizens in Magdalene laundries, industrial schools, mental hospitals and ‘mother and baby’ homes, where women pregnant out of wedlock were locked up and forced to give their babies for adoption. At any given time between 1926 and 1951 there were about 31,000 people in these institutions – only a small fraction of whom had committed any crime. This also applied to children – one child in every hundred was enslaved in an industrial school. Children in industrial schools, run by female and male Catholic orders, were treated with cruelty, not given proper food or education, made to work for the nuns or the brothers and were often physically and sexually abused. Their sole ‘crime’ was belonging to what would now be called ‘problem families’.

This history of incarceration, Fintan O’Toole writes, was Ireland’s way of establishing religious, social and moral “purity” by locking up and “correcting” potential deviants. This level of “coercive confinement” is extreme for any democratic society. In 1931, the Soviet gulags held about 200,000 prisoners – from a population of 165 million. The Irish system held 31,000 people – from a population of three million.

And this continues today. Between 2000 and 2012 Ireland locked up in direct provision hostels 51,000 asylum seekers, whose sole ‘crime’ was legally applying for Geneva Convention refugee status. In total, between 1991 and 2012 there were 68,847 asylum applications, of which only 4,130 or 6 per cent received positive answers. In November 2012, the last month for which figures are available, 4,822 people were incarcerated in these hostels, 75 per cent from Africa. Although intended to hold people for a maximum of six months, the average length of stay in these ‘holding camps’ is 44 months – almost four years, and many have been incarcerated for up to six years. Read the rest of this entry »

Where has the R word gone?

I write this having learnt that taxi driver Moses Ayanwole, originally from Nigeria, and brutally attacked by a white passenger in Pearse street, has died of his injuries. I write this with rage not only at the senseless murder, but also at the refusal by politicians and the mainstream media to use the racism word to describe it. We heard nothing from the Minister of Justice or any other senior politician. And on RTE’s Morning Ireland the representative of the taxi federation spoke about the need to install CCTV cameras in taxis but not about the issues faced by black African taxi drivers, who experience daily racism from white colleagues and passengers alike. There was nothing about many taxi ranks carrying ‘Irish drivers only’ notices, or about passengers refusing to get into taxis with black drivers, not to speak of the litany of racial slurs and insults.

This murder puts further flames onto recent racist fires. In Naas we had mayor Darren Scully who made the decision to refuse representation to black Africans based on what he described as their “aggressive” attitude when making representations to him, but who insensitively argues that he ‘abhors racism in all its forms’, adding that he had many African friends (not realising this is one of the most common ‘I am not a racist’ but ploys). And in Athlone, a 16 year old black girl was raped by a group of white boys, including one white girl, in an attacked described by the Evening Herald a ‘race rape of girl (16)’ – at least they used the R word, but one wondered whether the reason is sensationalism or accurate reporting. Read the rest of this entry »

12/18/2017 Migrant Activism and Integration from Below in Ireland

Edited by Ronit Lentin and Elena Moreo Palgrave MacMillan, 2012...read more
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December 2017
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