On 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 more
Last December some 200 African asylum seekers started a march from the open detention centre Holot in the south of the country towards the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem. ‘We are not afraid to march, sun, rain or snow. We’ll march to Jerusalem to ask the government for our rights. We can no longer stay in this prison’, said Masala, a young Eritrean marcher. After two days of marching in rough weather conditions, supported by Israeli human rights groups, they were all arrested and returned to the Saharonim jail, where the conditions are harsher.
Altogether some 53,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, live in Israel. Most have reached Israel through Egypt after a harrowing journey. Most have arrived from areas where massacres, murders, civil wars and political persecution are daily occurrences. In Israel, however, they are not called asylum seekers, but rather ‘infiltrators’ – a term harking back to the 1950s when Palestinian refugees, expelled from Israel during and after the 1948 war, attempted to get back to their homes and lands and were prevented from doing so. Read more
In the aftermath of the resignation of Niall Crowley, Chief Executive of the Equality Authority, the Minister for Justice made ‘no apologies’ for cutting the Equality Authority’s budget, privileging instead police spending. This is in line with seeing equality work as defending Irish society’s problematic marginal populations, rather than maintaining equality for all, which was what the EA was about.
Denying racism and declaring itself post- and anti-racist, Ireland, like other EU member states, in restricting immigration, limiting it to those migrants who are useful to ‘our way of life’, and castigating Travellers and poor people for not playing their part, particularly now that the economic boom is over.