Posts Tagged ‘asylum’

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 »

We still manage not to know

asylum-seekersMuch has been written recently about the forthcoming recommendations of the Working Group on Direct Provision made up of representatives of migrant-support NGOs, established ‘to report to Government on improvements to the protection process, including Direct Provision and supports to asylum seekers’. Media rumours relating to asylum seekers who have been in Direct Provision more than five years include the regularisation of 2,400 asylum seekers (Metro Eireann), the ‘fast tracking’ of 1,500 asylum seekers (the Irish Times) and asylum seekers doing their Leaving Certificate being allowed to pay the same fees as their ‘Irish’ counterparts and not as ‘foreign students’ (RTE).
The Direct Provision system, dubbed ‘inhumane by Minister of State at the Department of Justice Aoghan O’Riordán turns autonomous humans into the negatively valued category of ‘asylum seeker’. Like ‘managing not to know’ about the poor houses, Magdalene Laundries, mother and baby homes, industrial schools and psychiatric hospitals in which one in a hundred ‘Irish’ people were incarcerated for years, Irish society, despite the media reports, ‘’manages not to know’ about Direct Provision. In the Direct Provision centres – run by for-profit companies making millions on the backs of people seeking protection in Ireland – people are forced to share rooms with strangers, families are forced to live in one cramped room, unpalatable food is served at set time often leaving children hungry, and residents are subjected to disciplinary measures by centre managers and staff. 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 »

Seeking a way out of asylum (centres)

Since Frances Fitzgerald became Minister for Justice, we have been hearing a lot about the need to ‘do something’ about the direct provision centres. Minister of State at the Department of Justice Aodhán O Riordáin said that asylum seekers should be allowed to work after a certain period of time, a right asylum seekers are accorded in all but one other EU state, even though his minister is opposed to asylum seekers working. I suppose she is following the objection of successive ministers, worried it might make Ireland a ‘soft touch’. Indeed, in recent weeks we have heard scaring rumours about asylum figures ‘surging’ to a few hundreds; official Ireland is getting worried it is facing another ‘refugee problem’,  even though it has ensured that asylum applications remain low, and acceptance rates are the lowest in the EU.

In reality we are talking about merely 4,000 asylum seekers housed in the utterly inappropriate direct provision centres, about which much has been written recently, even though they remain hidden from public view. Residents, many of whom have stayed in the hostels for many years, cannot determine where they live, are often forced to share rooms with strangers, and with their children, and are forced to eat unpalatable and monotonous food. Hotel managers often punish residents daring to complain. Women say they do not feel safe and the Children’s ombudsman Emily Logan has spoken publicly on behalf of the 1,600 children whose safety and chances of attaining second and third level education are severely compromised, even though she is legally barred from investigating issues relating to asylum and direct provision. Minister O Riordáin called the system ‘inhumane’ and even Ms Fitzgerald expressed her concerns. What Minister O Riordán did not say was that the direct provision system, cast as ‘costing the taxpayer too much’, actually benefits private Irish money making businesses running the asylum centres. Read the rest of this entry »

Ireland and its children: The septic tank of history

In 1975 a group of local boys in Tuam discovered a slab in the former ground of what was locally known as The Home – one of eight ‘mother-and-baby homes’ throughout Ireland, housing unwed pregnant women and run by nuns – and underneath it they found little skeletons. This discovery was not reported until the recent publication of a report by a local historian, Catherine Corless of 796 deaths of babies in the St Mary’s home between 1925 and 1961. There were some media exaggerations, particularly reports of ‘800 babies found dumped in a septic tank’ and used for medical experiments.

The reality is not as scandalous but not less horrific. Corless confirms that at least 200 babies were put in a working sewer tank, leading William River Pitt in an article titled ‘Men’s rights and the septic tank of history’ (Truthout, 8 June 2014) to call these deaths and the targeting of sexually active Irish women ‘the septic tank of history’.

Despite recent reports on child abuse, the mother-and-baby homes still await a public investigation. These homes – denoting a deep hatred of female sexuality and the visiting of the mothers’ ‘sins’ upon their hapless children – were aimed to hide these unwed mothers’ ‘shame’;  the fathers, be they the women’s lovers, abusers or rapists, were never targeted. Many of the babies born in these ‘homes’ were sold for adoption to wealthy American Catholic childless couples. Many of the women laboured for the nuns in these homes or in Magdalene Laundries, whose horrible story has finally been told in recent years. 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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