Not very surprisingly, as the debate on the 22 May marriage equality referendum rages on, and messages compete, many of them totally disingenuous (such as the NO campaign highlighting the role of mothers and thus essentialising women’s caring and nurturing gender roles as if men cannot be caring and nurturing), one voice has been left out: LGBTQ people of colour and people from the migrant communities are not represented or visibly included in the YES campaign. It is as though they don’t exist, reflecting not merely the exclusion and discrimination of LGBT people in Irish society, but also of LGBT minorities in mainstream queer culture. However, this referendum is crucial to the migrant justice movement.
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’.Continue reading “CERD – not much use in fighting racism”
Much 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. Continue reading “We still manage not to know”