Posts Tagged ‘migrants’

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 »

Lament for 2012

savita-1A woman died. A day after Diwali, when the Irish Times had a front page image of a lovely little Indian boy lighting Diwali candles, it had another beautiful Indian face on its front cover, this time of a woman who died in an Irish hospital. Savita Halapanavar has since become a household face, even if we are not entirely certain on how to pronounce her surname, and a symbol of the oppression of women, whose lives and health are put at risk in Ireland’s maternity hospitals.
The minute details of the circumstances of Savita Halapanavar’s death are yet to be ascertained. Savita was in her 17th week of pregnancy, presented at Galway University Hospital with severe pain in her lower back, sent home because the foetus’s heartbeat was sound, came back to hospital with her waters broken, told the foetus’s heartbeat was still sound. When she was still having pains, Savita, clearly aware she was miscarrying, asked for a termination to be told her foetus’s heartbeat was still sound, and, as ‘this is a Catholic country’, she could not have a termination. Her reply that she was not a Catholic, not even Irish, was of little help. Savita suffered until her foetus’s heartbeat was no more, at which stage septicaemia set in and Savita died along with her foetus. And a day after Diwali her picture adorned our screens and newspapers and we held vigils and demonstrations, saying ‘we are all Savita’, declaring ‘never again’ and demanding that the government enacts the long-promised legislation, 20 years after the Supreme Court ruling in the x case, to protect the life of birthing mothers. Abortion was again big news as the ‘Pro Life’ and ‘pro choice’ camps battled it out over Savita’s dead body.

Read the rest of this entry »

04/27/2017 Migrant Activism and Integration from Below in Ireland

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