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28 August 1997 Edition

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Racist border checks

Tourists stopped four times in one day



By Brian Campbell

Four young people from Manchester who are regular visitors to Ireland were stopped and questioned by ``immigration police'' four times in one day as they travelled between Newry and Dundalk last Thursday 21 August. On each occasion white people who were travelling with them were not questioned.

In one incident, at a checkpoint at Drumadd in County Louth, a garda patrol stopped the car in which Lee Britton and his girlfriend Dee-Dee Phillips-Clarke were travelling. They questioned Lee and Dee-Dee and ignored the others (four white people) in the car. They asked the two visitors for their ``papers'' and when told that they had none they orderd the car to pull over to the side of the road. The car was held for twenty minutes while ``immigration specialists'' from Dundalk were summoned. These turned out to be two young Garda who again asked only the two young black people.for their names and where they were from.

The garda, when challenged, said, ``we have to look at everyone we suspect of being aliens''. The garda in Dundalk have admitted that they identify ``suspects'' initially by skin colour.

Lee Britton and his brother and sister, Sen and Clare Collins, have relatives in Newry and Dundalk and they are regular visitors to both towns. This is the first time they have been subjected to this harassment. They have registered a complaint with the 26 County Minister of Justice, John O'Donoghue.

Newry Sinn Fin Councillor Davy Hyland decribed the incidents as ``blatantly racist''. ``There have been several reports recently of visitors to our country being victimised at this border crossing simply because of the colour of their skin. It is an absolute disgrace that the state practices this type of open racism.''

The border checks have been in operation since June when the last 26 County Minister of Justice, Nora Owen, authorised, for the first time, immigration controls at points of entry ``from the UK''. This was seen as being in response to the hysteria created by a rise in the number of refugees seeking asylum in Ireland.

``It is sick that in Ireland we see this type of racism when the Irish have themselves suffered from racism over the years when seeking asylum in other countries,'' Councillor Hyland said.
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