Large chunks of international agreements to which Ireland is a party are ignored by the Act. (see article by Ursal Fraser of Amnesty Irish Times November 20th) The 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees obliges states not to impose sanctions on those who enter a state illegally to seek asylum. Yet the new Act clearly provides for detention in these cases. In many cases of course it would be impossible to escape from a persecuting country without forged documents. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has a right to seek and enjoy freedom from persecution. The introduction in the Act of massive carrier sanctions for ferry and airline companies punches a huge hole in this convention.
Asylum Seekers will now only have 14 days to get legal advice and appeal a decision that their case is "unfounded". The appeal must be in writing and sent by registered post which, of course, will come out of their £15 per week social welfare.
Perhaps most sinister is the new provision that asylum seekers must get written permission from the minister to have themselves identified by the media. The fine for ignoring this sweeping censorship is a hefty £1500 fine or 12 months in prison for publishing the story. This is a gross act of censorship perhaps even more authoritarian and far reaching then Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act which for years prevented interviews with or statements by some of the groups involved in the 6 county conflict to be carried by any broadcast media. Members of the National Union of Journalists should ensure their union supports anyone breaking or legally challenging this Act.
Even more ironically Irish capitalism has never had a greater need for workers. On Monday November 27th Mary Harney addressed a job fair in South Africa attended by 20,000. She said there that under the latest National Development Plan an additional 200,000 workers were required by 2006 and the director general of FÁS Roddy Molloy said there were 40,000 immediate vacancies in the Republic. Yet the main thrust of the Act (along with the introduction of fingerprinting, the miserable £15 a week "pocket money" and other government measures) is to process and deport asylum seekers as quickly as possible!
The crackdown is on as the governments try to ring fence the EU building a Fortress Europe. World-wide, while money moves across borders instantly in massive quantities through electronic transactions, people both European and non-European are denied basic rights: the right to travel, the right to protest. Once again the "free" market propped up by the state is revealed as one of the most authoritarian forms of government in history.
Anti-Racism groups should - with consent of the individual Asylum Seeker involved - break this law by producing leaflets outlining peoples cases that name them.
Conor Mc Loughlin
(Anti-Racism Campaign, personal capacity)