Proceedings against Ekundayo on charges arising from his appeals case have been dropped since late May '00. This shows how state racism in Ireland can be fought against and defeated. Congratulations to all of those who worked to support Ekundayo and highlight his case.
Ekundayo Joseph Omoniyi was forced to flee from his native Nigeria because of his opposition to the military regime in that country. Those looking for a democratic Nigeria have suffered numerous abuses of their human rights: some have been executed or died in custody. Ekundayo was arrested without charge in 1997 and had spent three months in prison. He managed to escape, and reached Ireland via Belgium.
His application for asylum was turned down; he appealed and heard nothing for months. When he went to renew his ID card in November 1998 at the Department of Justice, he was brought to an upstairs office where two gardaí were waiting. They told him that his deportation papers had been ready since May, and that he had been hiding. Mr Ominiyi's address was known to the gardaí, however, as he had been signing on regularly.
He was taken to Mountjoy Prison, where he had to share a cell with drug addicts. His lawyer applied for an injunction to stop him being deported. He was told he was being deported to Belgium on 17 December, but the gardaí came for him the day before. In the car on the way to Dublin airport they told him he was being sent to Belgium. Belgium has a very bad record of treatment of refugees: one African woman was killed by the authorities while being deported.
The gardaí refused to let Ekundayo get his personal property, and he removed his shirt in protest. They handcuffed him and pushed him to the ground. He screamed, and they stuffed his shirt into his mouth. One of the gardaí hit him, so hard that his watch was broken. The gardaí were calling him "a black bastard". The crew of the plane refused to take him on board.
Four gardaí carried him back to the car by his arms and legs and took him to Mountjoy. He was held there for four weeks over Christmas. In court the gardaí claimed he had given several false addresses, and had stolen a passport in England. He had never been to England, or given a false address, and these spurious claims were finally disproved. But for weeks Ekundayo was held in Mountjoy and had to search his bed for needles every night. The Supreme Court ruled that the deportation was un-constitutional.
He is now charged with assaulting gardaí, once while handcuffed in the car going to the airport, and once, still handcuffed, while being dragged along the ground at the airport. His case comes up for trial on 16 February 2000.
Ekundayo Omoniyi is guilty of no crime, unless it is a crime to look for democracy, or to resist an unjust and unconstitutional deportation. Join us in calling on minister for justice John O'Donoghue to have the charges against Mr Ominiyi dropped.
What the papers say Ekundayo suffered a strange sort of courtesy at the hands of the gardaí, and he has not been alone. Agencies working with refugees are regularly told of non-whites being hurt rather than helped by the long arm of the law. - Sunday Tribune, 28 February 1999
...there can be little doubt that Joseph Ekundayo Omoniyi's experiences reflect very badly on the way in which asylum seekers, and black people in par-ticular, are currently being treated in Ireland.... There is only one word to describe this phenomenon, and it is racism.... This is not an issue we can run away from. People are being discriminated against, abused and maltreated in our name. We cannot allow it to continue. In particular, we must ensure that those who are employed by the State to deal with refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants on our behalf treat everyone with whom they come in contact, fairly, with dignity and as equals. - Hot Press, 23 April 1999
Protests to Minister for Justice, Address as above.
Support to Residents Against Racism c/o Comhlámh, 10 Upper Camden Street, Dublin 2.
RAR Report had the following to say on Ekundayo's case:
Victory for Ekundayo
[On 24 May 2000, Ekundayo Omoniyi walked free from Dublin District Court, cleared of a charge of assaulting a garda. For Ekundayo, it was the end of a year and a half of racist harassment. For his supporters it was a great victory following long months of campaigning for justice.
Ekundayo came to Ireland from his native Nigeria, where his pro-democracy activities had led to his imprisonment by the military regime. At school, Catholic missionaries had told him what a welcoming Christian country Ireland was, but that image was shattered in December 1998.
When renewing his asylum seeker's ID card as normal at the Department of Justice, he was arrested and taken to Mounjoy prison with no opportunity to contact friends or a solicitor. The next day he was brought in handcuffs to Dublin airport to be arrested. He resisted, and was assaulted by one of the gardai. The crew of the aeroplane refused to co-operate, and Ekundabrought back to Mounjoy.
After spending Christmas in a cell full of dirty needles, he was released and the Supreme Court ruled that the deportation orders against him and others were unconstitutional. But the gardai then charged him with assaulting them &emdash; while he was handcuffed!
Residents Against Racism got involved in the case. Thousands of leaflets were distributed, Ekundayo's case was publicised, and thousands of signatures were collected on a petition calling for the Minister for Justice to drop the charges. The demand was brought right to John O' Donoghue's door with lively protests at the Dept. of Justice. One charge was subsequently dropped.
Ekundayo and other RAR members made repeated trips to the courts as his case was put back again and again. Finally the hearing went ahead on 24 May. Ekundayo's barrister argued that his deportation was unlawful and violated his constitutional rights. Therefore, the gardai had no right to be detaining him in the first place, and the charge should be dismissed. The state's barrister claimed that the gardai were doing their duty correctly according to the law.
The judge ruled that Ekundayo's detention was indeed unlawful and unconstitutional, and should not have happened. Any evidence arising from this illegal act would be inadmissable. Therefore he directed a verdict of not guilty.
Ekundayo's acquittal is a tribute to the hard work put in by Residents Against Racism, and by his legal team. But above all it was Ekundayo himself who kept fighting through long hard months, and he has become a valuable member of the anti-racist movement in Ireland.
Ekundayo Ominiyi's victory will hopefully become a landmark. Maybe the next time some garda or state official engages in racism, they'll be forced to think twice. This case shows that, if it is fought seriously, state racism can be beaten.]
Taken from RAR Report, the Newsletter for Residents Against Racism, Summer 2000.