The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman (OCO) released a report yesterday on Separated Children Living in Ireland. The report defines separated children as being under 18, being outside their country of origin, and separated from both parents or legal guardian(s). The Child Care Act 1991 and the Refugee Act 1996 place responsibility on the Health Service Executive (HSE) to cater for the needs of separated children.
The OCO has stated that separated children are not treated equally to Irish children, Read more…
My first task in this post is to collect all of the other posts in one place:
- Hidden Borders and Operation Gull
- Probing the Citizenship Regime
- An Invisible Social Group – Sexual Minority Asylum Seekers in Ireland
- Irregular Migration in Ireland
- Social Welfare and the Protection Regime
- The Culture of Control and Reception Conditions for Asylum Seekers
- Legitimate Victims, Illegitimate Agents
- Anti-Racism and Lived Experience
- Travellers and the Irish Politics of Belonging
- National Belonging: The View from France
- Belonging to Irish society in a social welfare context.
Now, I said early this morning that I would not attempt to draw together the various strands of the posts which have been contributed to our blog carnival, but – at the risk of oversimplifying, and of suggesting a unity of theme and purpose where perhaps none exists – I want to highlight some of the most important themes which have emerged from the carnival.
In May 2004, the Irish government introduced a new concept of “belonging” to Irish society in the context of social welfare law. In light of EU enlargement, the government was concerned that citizens from the ten EU accession states would come to Ireland as “welfare tourists” and avail of higher social security payments. Thus, it introduced the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC). This meant that any person coming to live in Ireland would only be entitled to certain social security payments if she or he had been present in the Common Travel Area for two years.
However, the EU Commission recognised that it was easier for Irish and British people to satisfy this condition than for people from other EU Member States. This situation was contrary to the EU principle of freedom of movement, so Ireland was threatened with infringement proceedings. These proceedings were dropped in 2006, as the Department of Social and Family Affairs recognised that (under Regulations 1408/71 and 574/72) EU migrant workers did not have to satisfy the HRC and were entitled to the same social security benefits as their Irish counterparts.
The law was changed in 2007 to reflect this and five criteria to determine habitual residence were taken from a decision of the European Court of Justice (Case C-90/97 Swaddling v Adjudication Officer). A person now has to demonstrate that Ireland is his or her main “centre of interest”; in other words s/ show that she or he has formed a social attachment to Ireland which is stronger than with any other state, including his or her home country. A person can show this attachment to the State by gaining employment, forming relationships here, having children in school, registering with a local doctor and integrating into the local community. It is not permitted to impose a two-year period in applying the HRC.
This is Eoin Daly’s second guest post for HRinI. You can read more about Eoin on the Guest Contributors’ page.
The French Minister for Immigration and National Identity, Eric Besson, has launched a “great debate” on national identity, continuing an important theme of the Sarkozy presidency. Discussions will take place at town hall-style meetings, open to the public, over the coming months, with the views expressed to be collated in a subsequent report. It has aroused opposition and scepticism in at least a section of the political and intellectual Left, which sees it, with some justification, as a cynical move to appropriate the anti-immigration terrain of the National Front. In this blog post, I briefly consider the scope and likely tenor of the “great debate” in the light of the related traditions of republicanism and universalism in France’s public culture and history of ideas. In particular, I wish to touch upon the question of whether the troubling conflation of the debate on national identity with the immigration question is such as to jeopardise the possibility, for universalist republicanism, of openness to a plurality of ways of life, and of securing the social and political bond upon exclusively political ideals rather than pre-political commonalities.
This post is contributed by Dr. Darren O’Donovan. You can read about Darren on our Guest Contributors page.
In this post I want to underline the significance of past and present state policy towards the Travelling Community in understanding how Ireland, like all countries around the world, has silenced and rendered invisible of those who did not belong to, and could not be accommodated within, the idealised story of the Irish nation and majority cultural identity. The exclusion of the experiences of the Travelling Community from the Migration Nation Report as well as recent regressive state policies, underline that to this day, Travellers are regarded as residual to human rights protections relating to cultural rights and equality, as well as to the recent diversity debates in multicultural Ireland.
The watershed moment for Travellers rights was the Task Force Report on the Travelling Community 1995, which called for the ‘redefinition of the Traveller situation in terms of cultural rights as opposed to simply being a poverty issue’. The key to securing this recognition, and protecting it to this day, is an appreciation of the historical exclusion and the distinct identity of Travellers. This battle for history, like those across Europe, must not be influenced by present day derogatory attitudes, but by cogent documented research. The key document, which has long lain obscure and underappreciated, is the Report of the Commission on Itinerancy 1963. This offers the strongest evidence of deeply rooted stereotypical representations and silencing of Travellers. For instance, alongside assertions that Traveller women were unable to undertake housework and that Traveller men suffered from alcoholism and laziness, the Commission also noted that, while it had investigated the possibility of placing the majority of Traveller children within industrial schools, this would present too much of a burden upon the taxpayer. In order to preserve the life-story of the Irish nation, its ideal of Gaelic social communalism and attachment to land, Travellers were not to be understood as possessing cultural traditions, but were rather simply an impoverished group who were forced into occupying caravans by their own economic backwardness. Travellers threaten to rupture the majority’s preferred history, and it requires a conscious identity project to explain away their origins and exclusion.
Since the onset of the recession and the demise of the NCCRI and the cut in the budget of the Equality Authority and the Irish Commission on Human Rights, no one has been speaking much about racism. Most Irish people feel they have other priorities, as they try to make ends meet, get a bank loan, or secure their pensions.
Racism, however, has not disappeared. Migrants, Travellers and members of other ethnic minorities are reporting a marked increase in racist incidents, though, apart from CSO statistics on ‘racially motivated crimes’ (which don’t differentiate the experiences of Travellers, migrants or other racialised groups) there is little hard evidence.
It was therefore encouraging that the Equality Authority and the European Network against Racism organised a discussion forum on ‘Tackling racism and the impact of racist stereotypes’. The event, hosting academics, members of NGOs, some of whom were themselves migrants, Travellers and members of minorities, aimed to identify ‘best practices and tools to address racism including racism arising from stereotypes’.
However yet again, none of the speakers was a member of a migrant or minority group. The keynote speaker was Anastasia Crickley, a long time anti-racist campaigner for Traveller and minority rights, and chairperson of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (formerly the EU Monitoring Centre against Racism, Antisemitism and Xenophobia). She listed four reasons for addressing racism: charity, cohesion, economics and ethics, but she did not speak about the politics of antiracism, or about the role of the state in perpetrating racism. In the Equality Authority’s background document, ‘Living Together: European Citizenship against Racism and Xenophobia’ the best practices listed for Ireland mostly focused on cultural diversity, not antiracism.
Twelve years after the European Year Against Racism, racism is still spoken about in terms of cultural diversity. The EA’s event gave no space to the lived experiences or analysis of racism by the racialised.
The famous anti colonial fighter Frantz Fanon emphasised the lived experience of the black man. Yet contemporary academic preoccupation with ‘culture’ and ‘identity’ as the sole positions of the struggle of racialised people leads to the conflation of ‘identity politics’ with anti-racism and to the depoliticisation of the anti-racist struggle. However, one of the most important questions asked in relation to antiracism is ‘who speaks for whom, who says what and from where?’ Antiracism can be either generalised – intending to raise awareness among the population and reach a post-racial ‘racelessness’, or colour blindness. Or it can be self-representational, where the lived experience of the racialised informs the struggle. Generalist antiracism is anchored in universal values such as democracy, human rights, equality and tolerance; it reduces the importance of state racism and emphasises individual (or institutional) prejudice. In contrast, self organising antiracism stresses the role of the state, which focuses on notions of the race idea rooted in the political structure. The lived experience of the protagonists informs the struggle and names the state as the main culprit rather than stress individual prejudice, a way of depoliticising racism and antiracism.
Not privileging the experiences of the racialised means nothing much has changed. Antiracism in Ireland continues to be solidaristic, performed by well meaning white, settled, Christian Irish people, whose ‘best practices’ documents continue in the tradition of soft interculturalism and cultural diversity, while racism goes on.
This is our second guest post from Deirdre Duffy. You can read about Deirdre on our Guest Contributors page.
According to the author Stanley Cohen (1997), no group has been as systematically and consciously demonised as refugees and asylum seekers. In his analyses of the creation of moral panics Cohen argues that at no point have this group been portrayed – accurately or otherwise – as anything other than a threat to society as a whole. Their status as people in need of refuge and sanctuary has been constantly questioned. It is little wonder then that advocates of refugee and asylum seekers constantly try to underline this group’s victimhood. Asylum seekers are not, after all, seeking asylum without good reason. However, in the long term, this promotion of the victimhood of refugees and asylum seekers places them in an extremely precarious position, one felt by many vulnerable groups, where their villainy is only negated by their ability to be victims. While this may not seem to be problematic, it is quite disempowering and restrictive of their ability to move from being asylum seekers to ordinary members of society by themselves. Legitimacy means powerlessness.