Posts Tagged ‘migrants’

Why Taoiseach Varadkar is bad for equality in Ireland

varadkar

When Larry Gordon, a member of the progressive Dublin Food Co Op recently told a niqab-wearing Muslim woman that she has no right to come to shop for organic produce at the Co Op and refused to apologise for his racist and Islamophobic outburst, a white Co Op member told me, after I intervened, that ‘veiled women put all of us women in Europe in grave danger’ and protested when I told her Islamophobia comes in all shades. This racist incident, still to be resolved by the Co Op board, is an omen of the ‘I am not a racist but’ Ireland, particularly as we are facing an ethnic minority gay Taoiseach who however disavows racism and denigrates migrants, poor people and disabled people.

On the face of it, having supported immigration into Ireland and having been actively involved in resisting racism and discrimination of LGBT and disabled people for many years, why am I less that delighted that Ireland’s next Taoiseach is the son of an Indian migrant and an openly gay man? After all, Ireland’s record of electing ethnic minority politicians is very poor: apart from three Jewish TDs, a single Muslim TD and a couple of African and Traveller local politicians, Ireland has consistently upheld white supremacy, while protesting its non-racialism and continuing to incarcerate asylum seekers in direct provision hell holes and to treat migrants as mere economic commodities who must emulate ‘our culture’.

Examining Varadkar’s record of focusing on welfare fraud, calling to send home migrants who have become unemployed, not allowing gay parents to adopt children, calling to make mentally disabled people pay for their incarceration in the Central Mental Hospital, and calling upon migrants and refugees to accept ‘Irish culture’ explains why I am so opposed to this (unelected, remember) gay son of an Indian doctor becoming Taoiseach, well beyond my general distaste for Fine Gael’s reactionary conservatism.

Although for many migrants Varadkar’s rise sounds like the immigrant’s dream come true, according to Dublin born half-Asian Dean van Nguyen writing in the Irish Times, there is no reason to get excited by Varadkar, who has shown little interest in migrants or in Ireland’s racial issues. Indeed, while saying ‘I’m somebody who thinks immigration is beneficial. I’m in charge of a health service that is heavily influenced and dependent on migrants, doctors and nurses form overseas. So I’m somebody who believes it is good for our economy and society,’ he called for the deportation of unemployed ‘foreign nationals’ who should be offered three or four months benefits if they agree to go home and forego benefits beyond that. The suggestions, Van Nguyen argues, ‘fed into the trite typecasting that people come to Ireland only to claim benefits, while also undermining all immigrants’ hopes of being accepted in their new homes’. While Varadkar did support accepting a small number of refugees from Syria (in fact only 760 out of the promised 4,000 Syrian and other refugees arrived in Ireland in 2016), he see immigration merely as ‘beneficial’ to Irish state and society and has warned about cultural differences, claiming that ‘people will come to Ireland to work but will actually look down on our culture and look down on our freedoms and liberalisms and think they are wrong’.

For me, Leo Varadkar’s insistence that being the son of a migrant is meaningless signifies what Alana Lentin calls ‘post racialism’: ‘declarations of the end of race ignores the continuing impact of racism upon socio-economic inequality in racial states.’ Post-racialism, closely linked to culturalist solutions to problems seen as originating from excessive cultural diversity, she argues, is firmly set within the history of modern racism, even though most people in Ireland prefer to ignore it, insisting, despite evidence to the contrary, that they are not racist, but that ‘Irish culture’ is endangered by all those immigrants and foreigners.

Varadkar will thus be the first post-racial Taoiseach, whose ‘drawbridge’ mentality insists that while his own migrant father had worked so hard during the ‘tough’ 1980s, today’s migrants should work just as hard and emulate ‘our’ culture, and when becoming unemployed should go back home, because, as he proudly stated in his election campaign video: ‘It’s all about hard work and ambition…’

We asked for workers and people came

irish-navy-migrantsLast week we have again helplessly watched people drowning in the Mediterranean as they attempt to cross the sea to the safety of Europe. Migration NGOs say that more than 2,000 migrants and refugees have died in 2015 so far. However, the very use of the term ‘migrants’ by European governments and NGOs dehumanises their tragedy, occluding the fact that what the Italian-Jewish writer Primo Levi, speaking of Holocaust victims and survivors, called ‘the drowned and the saved’, are human beings, just like us. In 1972, during the migration of ‘guest workers’ to western Europe, the Swiss writer Max Frisch, whose work focused on issues of responsibility, morality, and political commitment, unforgettably wrote in response to the ‘guest workers’ controversy: ‘we asked for workers and human beings came’. Migrant workers, Frisch insisted, have lives, families, hopes and dreams, just like the citizens of the states they come to live in – an insight too easily lost in the current debates on migrants and refugees.

The people desperately trying to gain entry to Western Europe, be it through the fenced border between Hungary and Serbia, the Channel tunnel between France and Britain, or on rickety boats crossing the Mediterranean from Africa to southern Europe, are fleeing disasters – such as the catastrophic wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea and Sudan, or the dire poverty of African countries - all created or supported by the west. Lest we forget, these humans are fleeing because they want to feel safe and give their children a future, yet, although seeking asylum is totally legal, they are often criminalised by the European migration regime. Read the rest of this entry »

Book review: Pregnant on Arrival: Making the Illegal Immigrant, Eithe Luibheid

pregnant-on-arrivalPublisher: University of Minnesota Press 2013     Price: $25

ISBN 978-0-8166-8100-6

In January 2002, a Nigerian woman appealed to the Irish High Court to prevent her deportation on the ground that she was pregnant. Her lawyers argued that her deportation contravened Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution which guarantees to defend and vindicate the right to life of the unborn, who, Irish law considers to be ‘a person’. The woman, who became known as Ms O, had lost her asylum application and her appeal, but in a judicial review of her deportation order, building on the right to life of the unborn, she argued that due to high Nigerian infant mortality rates, the rights of her unborn child could not be guaranteed if she was deported. The Supreme Court rejected her appeal, apparently concluding that in the case of some (non-Irish) women, the unborn is not a person. In this book Eithne Luibhéid employs Ms O’s case alongside the infamous X case to draw attention to the long history of Irish women travelling across borders, both as emigrants and as women seeking abortions abroad, and the shorter history of women immigrating into Ireland, to suggest that the Irish state’s pro-life position is one of the factors shaping its approach to managing migration in and out of the country, and thus, that (hetero)sexuality is a factor in shaping Irish immigration policies.

Considering the plethora of recent books on the topic of immigration to Ireland and, to a lesser extent, emigration from Ireland, and though there had been several previous studies of Irish women emigrants,   it is surprising that Luibhéid’s Pregnant on Arrival: The Making of the Illegal Immigrant is the first volume to fully engender migration which, she argues, illustrates Ireland’s heteronormative regime. Luibhéid’s main argument is that constructing pregnant migrant women, and in particular pregnant asylum seekers, as illegal immigrants, has implications not merely for Ireland’s immigration and deportation regimes, but also for the future of the children born to these women through what she calls ‘reproductive futurism’. Read the rest of this entry »

Lampedusa: Wasted lives and the limits of European ‘hospitality’

lampedusaI don’t suppose that tourists, lured to Lampedusa’s Rabbit Beach, off the southern coast of Italy, voted the world’s best beach by the travel site TripAdvisor as having ‘snow-white beaches, unspoiled nature and the crystal-clear sea filled with life’, spare a thought to the island being the primary European entry point for migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.  At least not until last week’s disaster in which some 300 migrants drowned in a desperate attempt to reach ‘Europe’. Lampedusa, I suggest, epitomises the paradox of European asylum policies at their most acute.

After Lybia and Italy reached a secret agreement in 2004 that obliged Libya to accept African immigrants deported from Italy, there was a mass return of many people from Lampedusa to Libya. This didn’t last and by 2006, African immigrants were paying Lybian people smugglers to help get them to Lampedusa by boat. On arrival, most were transferred by the Italian government to reception centres in mainland Italy. Many were then released because their deportation orders were not enforced. 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 »

06/24/2017 Migrant Activism and Integration from Below in Ireland

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