Stand up against racism

The recent growth in racism in Irish society has shocked many people. Yet racism is not a new phenomenon in Ireland. For decades the Irish State and many Irish people have been consistently racist in their treatment of the Traveller population. This has led to a situation where the infant mortality rate among Travellers is three times higher than that of the settled community, 70 - 80% of all adult Travellers are illiterate and over 1,000 families live on unserviced sites without access to such basics as running water, electricity, refuse collection or fire protection. Travellers are treated by State services, and by many people, as Irelandís 'untouchables'; and anti-Traveller protests have been an all too frequent occurrence over the past number of years.

The recent increase in the number of asylum seekers coming to Ireland has however led to an unprecedented upsurge in racism - both by the State and by individual Irish people. Media headlines and statements from some politicians have referred constantly to 'bogus' asylum seekers, 'illegal immigrants', 'floods' of asylum seekers. Yet the facts are that the number of asylum seekers who have come to Ireland is tiny by international standards and miniscule when compared to the number of Irish people living abroad. (There are in fact 3 million Irish citizens living outside the island, about 1.2 million of whom were born here. By contrast, less than 20,000 people have come here seeking asylum.)

The consequences of these statements have included an alarming increase in the number of verbal and physical attacks on the streets of our city. Racist leaflets and slogans have appeared in some parts of Dublin.

Meanwhile the government continues to pursue policies of forced dispersal, of deportation, of compulsory fingerprinting and of generally making life as difficult as possible for asylum seekers.

Fortress Europe

The Irish government is not alone in this. Governments throughout the EU are busily implementing 'Fortress Europe' policies - policies designed to make it as difficult as possible to get into the European Union. They are policies for which people are paying a heavy price. Everybody will remember the horrific case earlier this year when 58 Chinese people suffocated in the back of a truck as they tried to sneak into Britain. But unfortunately, these were not isolated deaths. In fact, since 1993 over 2,000 people have died as a direct result of the 'Fortress Europe' policies - people who have died trying to get into Europe, been killed in attempts to deport them, been beaten to death by racist attackers or committed suicide in despair.

The world in which we live is a very unequal place. In the developed world, we see huge growth in the gap between the rich and the poor. The Ireland of the 'Celtic Tiger' has seen - despite the so-called economic boom - a growth in homelessness, and large numbers of working-class people are more likely to be mauled than purred at by the 'Celtic Tiger'. On a world scale, the inequities in development and distribution of resources are even more glaring. And as a direct result of 'globalisation' (the removal of trade barriers, interference in domestic markets etc.), these inequalities are further entrenched.

These inequalities have, naturally, led a number of people from the Developing World to come to the more developed countries of the Northern hemisphere in search of a better life. The sight of people fleeing poverty and deprivation is one which should strike a chord in the heart of every Irish person. After all, it was as a direct result of famine and poverty that hundreds of thousands of Irish people took to the famine ships. More recently, tens of thousands of Irish people were forced to emigrate throughout the 1980s as a direct result of government policy.

The EU's (and Ireland's) response to the arrival of refugees and immigrants has, however, been the establishment of 'Fortress Europe'. It is indeed ironic that the same people who argue that there should be absolutely no barriers to the free flow of capital want to ensure that the barriers against the movement of people should not alone be maintained but strengthened. Ironic perhaps, but not surprising. After all, it is the interests of the rich which are being protected.

The Irish government is determined to pursue a mean-spirited and penny-pinching attitude to asylum seekers and immigrants. The deportation of asylum seekers and the stirring up of racism is part of this. That is why it is important that a strong and vibrant anti-racism movement is built. This is what the Anti Racism Campaign is attempting to do. Overleaf you can read our founding statement and details of how to get involved. Please do. We need YOUR help.


Part of the Anti - Racism Campaigns web site