Posts Tagged ‘blog carnival’

Eoin Daly: National Belonging – The View From France

November 16, 2009 2 comments

This is Eoin Daly’s second guest post for HRinI. You can read more about Eoin on the Guest Contributors’ page.

logoThe 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.

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Darren O’Donovan: Travellers and the Irish Politics of Belonging

November 16, 2009 3 comments

This post is contributed by Dr. Darren O’Donovan. You can read about Darren on our Guest Contributors page.

logoIn 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.

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Ronit Lentin: Anti Racism and Lived Experience

November 16, 2009 1 comment

logoThis post is a ‘donation’ from Ronit Lentin’s blog ‘Free Radical‘. It was first published there on November 1.  You can read more about Ronit on the ‘Guest Contributors’ page.

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.

Deirdre Duffy: Legitimate Victims, Illegitimate Agents

November 16, 2009 2 comments

logoThis 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.

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Liam Thornton: The Culture of Control and Reception Conditions for Asylum Seekers in Ireland

November 16, 2009 2 comments

logoThis post is contributed by our regular member Liam Thornton. You can read about Liam on our Contributors page.

A central concern of the welfare state within post-modern welfare debates is the use of discipline, whereby the democratic-welfare-capitalist society is the disciplinary or controlling society. Asylum seekers can be viewed as a threat to the functioning of the welfare state. Welfare state regimes, when they were being formulated, were addressed to citizens. However, the welfare state only ever provided a modicum of support to those relying on it. The welfare state can, in certain situations, be considered a penal institution, whose abstract penality is all the more pervasive when those outside the contours of entitlement seek to rely on basic state supports. Geddes argues that “the bogus myth of welfare scrounging” has polluted contemporary immigration and protection debates.

The welfare state has become a forum for exclusion of asylum seekers from mainstream welfare provision (For information on current reception regimes for asylum seekers in Ireland, see here). Current literature on reception conditions for asylum seekers in Ireland fails to properly account for its punitive nature. The current reception conditions in place developed against a background of heightened concern about growing number of asylum seekers and other persons seeking protection arriving in Ireland (see here). Read more…

FLAC: Social Welfare and the Protection Regime

November 16, 2009 5 comments

This is a contribution from Saoirse Brady, FLAC’s Policy & Campaigns Officer.

logoAsylum seekers and other persons seeking protection often appear to be excluded from Irish society.  In fact, the Irish government has taken a number of steps to ensure that persons within the asylum and humanitarian leave to remain process cannot easily integrate into Irish society.

By introducing the policies of direct provision and dispersal, the government has added to this sense of exclusion for individuals seeking asylum or another form of protection.  “Direct provision” is the scheme whereby asylum seekers and people seeking other forms of protection are given accommodation on a full-board basis with all their basic needs apparently provided for directly.  Direct provision residents receive a weekly payment of 19.10 for an adult and 9.60 for a child, unchanged since its introduction in 2001.  The dispersal scheme ensures that individuals who apply for asylum are dispatched to different parts of the country.  Often they are removed from residential areas or big towns and sent to remote or rural locations.  Transport is limited and given their meagre allowance, it is often difficult for them to leave their accommodation centres to socialise or interact with other members of Irish society.  This obviously has implications for the social inclusion of direct provision residents.  In its concluding observations to Ireland’s first national report, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted it “is concerned at the possible implications of the policy of dispersal of and direct provision for asylum-seekers” under article 3, which prohibits discrimination.

Furthermore, the integration of asylum seekers and other direct provision residents does not fall within the remit of the Office of the Minister for Integration, set up in 2007.

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Elaine Dewhurst: Irregular Migration in Ireland

November 16, 2009 5 comments

This post is contributed by Dr. Elaine Dewhurst. You can read more about Elaine on our Guest Contributors’ Page.

logoThey clean your hotel room, serve you in restaurants, pick your vegetables, clean your office, build your houses, mind your children and they may even entertain you. While many of these people are regular workers, there is a real possibility that these workers are, in fact, irregular migrant workers (sometimes referred to as “illegal” or “undocumented” workers). Due to their status as “illegal”, they strive to conceal their identities and their lives in case they are subject to deportation. But how do migrant workers become irregular and what is their status in Irish employment law?
How do migrant workers become irregular? The majority of migrant workers working in Ireland have the requisite permission to work here either because they are from a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) country and thus benefit from free movement or because they have been given specific permission by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (such as an employment permit) to work in Ireland. However, there are some migrant workers in Ireland who do not have permission to work in Ireland and they are referred to as irregular migrant workers (Immigration Act 2004, s. 5(2) and Employment Permits Act 2003 (Ireland), s. 2(2) as amended Employment Permits Act 2006 ).

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Irish Refugee Council: An Invisible Social Group – Sexual Minority Asylum Seekers in Ireland

November 16, 2009 1 comment

This post is contributed by Samantha Arnold, Policy Assistant at the Irish Refugee Council.

Tlogohe persecution of sexual minorities (gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender individuals) is not a new phenomenon. However, issues arising with regards to qualification and substantive rights have only recently come to the fore  (see here, here and here)

The Qualification Directive, as well as the Irish Refugee Act 1996, acknowledges the right of sexual minorities to seek asylum (under the social group nexus). However, in relation to the Qualification Directive it is specifically stated that “[s]exual orientation cannot be understood to include acts considered to be criminal in accordance with national law of the Member States…”

Those who suffer from serious harm are also entitled to protection under European Union and Irish law. Under the Qualification Directive, the applicant must establish ‘substantial grounds… for believing’ that a person may suffer serious harm if returned to their country of origin or habitual residence.  This is problematic as it places more of the burden on the applicant rather than a shared responsibility to establish a well-founded fear of persecution (see here)

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Immigrant Council of Ireland: Probing the Citizenship Regime

November 16, 2009 1 comment

logoThis post is contributed by Ruth Evans, Media and Communications Officer at the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

Earlier this year, a woman came to the Immigrant Council of Ireland for information about a particular issue when, almost as an aside, it emerged that she had applied for citizenship of this country by naturalisation.

She is the single parent of several young children and earns less than €500 a week.  Clearly, she would be granted social welfare assistance of some kind if she applied for it but, knowing that to do so would rule out any chance of her citizenship application being successful, she has never applied for State benefits and struggles by under her own steam. Making a decision not to access social welfare despite financial hardship, even if caused by redundancy, is not unique to this client.  It is something we hear repeatedly from callers to the ICI’s Information and Referral helpline.

Accessing social welfare payments is one of the grounds for refusal of citizenship applications in this country.

After waiting two years for her application to be processed, our client received a letter from the Government, which she assumed would contain the Minister’s decision whether or not her application was successful.  Citizenship decisions are made at the absolute discretion of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

There was no decision in the letter.  Instead, our client was informed that the Minister had deferred making a decision for another 12 months so that he could ascertain that she remained in employment and financially independent of State funding during that time.

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Agnieszka Martynowicz, Irish Penal Reform Trust: Hidden Borders and Operation Gull

November 16, 2009 1 comment

This post is contributed by Agnieszka Martynowicz on behalf of the Irish Penal Reform Trust. You can read more about Agnieszka on our Guest Contributors’ Page.

logoDo you remember the first scene of ‘Love Actually’, the arrivals hall at Heathrow, people hugging and kissing, saying hello? There is so much happiness in these first few seconds of the film; so much of the feeling of safety and joy at being re-united with the people one loves. As someone who left their own country nine years ago to come and live in Ireland, I know that feeling too, being welcomed and awaited on either side of my journey – whether in Warsaw or Belfast or Dublin.

But this is not the experience of everyone landing in Belfast, and especially not those who chose to travel there from Africa, Asia, South America… If you hold a passport from one of the non-EEA countries, you have more chance of being met by UK Border Agency’s ‘Operation Gull’ team, asked for your papers, tickets, asked to open your luggage, hand-over your mobile phone, possibly arrested and taken to a police station where you may spend up to 7 days not knowing what will happen next. You may never get to the arrivals hall to meet your friends or loved ones who await you there.

In 2007, I had an opportunity to observe Operation Gull as part of an investigation by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission into immigration detention in Northern Ireland. For two days, we observed the interaction of UKBA’s officers with people disembarking from domestic flights at Belfast City Airport, observed the searches and interviews, spoke privately to those who were detained at the airport, and to some who were held in police stations in Northern Ireland. We found evidence of racial profiling in immigration enforcement; the use of anti-terrorism stop and search powers to justify internal immigration control; inconsistency and arbitrary decision-making in relation to arrest and detention, stopping people on the basis of a “feeling” or “something not being quite right”. More often than not, the main accusation against those who were stopped was that they had gained entry to the UK by deception, and that they actually always wanted to travel on to the Republic of Ireland.

There is no easy way of establishing how many people are detained in Northern Ireland through Operation Gull every year, as information about it is scarce, to say the least. In the Republic of Ireland, 961 people were detained in prisons in 2008 for immigration-related reasons, many of them for what Frances Webber, an English barrister specialising in immigration law, once termed “crimes of arrival”. We can suppose that quite a few detainees so held were arrested on the Belfast to Dublin train by officers of the Garda National Immigration Bureau who run their own ‘version’ of ‘Operation Gull’ south of the Border. In 2005, a report into immigration detention in Ireland concluded that immigration detainees are a particularly disadvantaged group, not having access to services which are available to immigrants, they may not be made aware of their rights and entitlements or may not be able to exercise them because of language and/or literacy difficulties. This is also true in Northern Ireland.

I wish that those policy makers who so easily talk about “flood-gates” opening for migrant workers, about “bogus asylum-seekers” or about “managed migration” would take some time to sit in a departure lounge of an airport and look carefully around them. They should look at those saying goodbye to their families, friends, countries, for a while or forever. They should listen to Luka Bloom’s song “No matter where you go, there you are” which describes the reality of migration so incredibly well. Even then, they will only ever get a glimpse of how it really feels to say goodbye to people and places that one really loves, and to make a choice to leave in search of a safer, better life. They will probably never experience what it feels like when that dream ends in a prison or a police cell.

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