Building the anti-racist resistance


In response to growing racism against refugees and asylum seekers, recent months have seen the beginnings of an anti-racism campaign in Dublin. This campaign had its public 'launch' at a very successful public meeting, attended by over 80 people, last October.

The Anti Racism Campaign (ARC) is based on a founding statement which describes it as "an open and democratic alliance of people who came together to combat the anti-refugee and anti-immigrant hysteria initiated and encouraged by politicians and the media". The campaign also opposes anti-Traveller racism. It refuses to "..separate people into 'deserving' (refugees) and 'non-deserving' (immigrants)", and opposes all forms of immigration control.

The ARC statement goes on to point out clearly where the racism being experienced by refugees and immigrants is coming from:- "It is an attempt to hold foreign born people responsible for the Irish government's neglect of working class communities and their underfunding of welfare services. Racism divides ordinary tax paying workers and unemployed people on the grounds of colour, and deflects us into fighting among ourselves. Meanwhile the government gives away our tax money in grants to big business and tax amnesties for the rich.

The main problem we face is not small groups of racist thugs, it is institutional racism: state racism aided by the compliance of media, union and church leaders. While opposing all outbreaks of racial prejudice, we understand that the biggest problems faced by refugees and immigrants (denial of entry, denial of employment rights, etc.) are caused by government".

The Anti-Racism Campaign has set itself the task of organising large numbers "..to oppose racist lies, agitation and legislation". It makes it clear that it is not a charity but that it aims "..to empower people to help themselves". Its founding statement concludes "we are a campaign that brings ordinary people together in order to make our actions more effective. We welcome all anti-racists: Irish, Travellers, refugees and immigrants".

Members of the Workers Solidarity Movement have been involved in helping to build this campaign, as have members of the Socialist Party, the Association of Refugees & Asylum Seekers in Ireland and many non-aligned people. Already the campaign has been involved in the distribution of anti-racist leaflets - both in the city centre and in areas in which racist leaflets and graffiti have appeared. Racist slogans and graffiti have been painted out.

With the help of the Markets Area Citizens Information Centre (22 Beresford Street), a free and confidential information service for asylum seekers and refugees has been established. A Trade Unionists Against Racism grouping has been set up to campaign for the adoption by all trade unions of an Anti-Racist Charter. The aim of this charter is to ensure that all workers, and especially those who deal with refugees on a daily basis (in social welfare, education, shops, etc.), are aware of their own responsibilities in creating an anti-racist environment, and in challenging incidences of racist behaviour by management or by work colleagues.

A mediawatch group has been established which monitors the media and responds to racist articles or comments. Where newspapers refuse to print a 'right to reply' to racist articles, their offices will be picketed. In addition there have been several public activities aimed at heightening awareness of the issue of racism.

Other such activities are planned, in particular in opposition to the heavy-handed and racist behaviour of gardaí and immigration officers at the airports, ferryports, and on trains and buses from the North. The Anti-Racist Campaign meets every Wednesday at 8pm in the Irish Vietnamese Centre, 45 Hardwicke Street, Dublin 1. Come along to the meetings and get involved in building this very important campaign.

Gregor Kerr
Co-ordinating Committee, ARC - personal capacity

For further information on the Anti-Racism Campaign, wite to ARC c/o 10 Upper Camden Street, Dublin 2 or ring Ray at 01- 4750376


This article is from Workers Solidarity No 53 published in January 1998