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21 March 2002 Edition

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Asylum seekers hunger strike against criminalisation

Six men have been on hunger strike in Mountjoy Jail for over a week in protest at the appalling situation they face. They are being held as if they were convicted of crimes, awaiting deportation.

Three of the men have children born in this country. The children are automatically entitled to Irish citizenship. The government's decision to deport the children's parents flies in the face of all humanity or human rights for a family to live together.

At a picket outside the jail on Saturday evening, Ayabe Ayinde, spoke of the tragedy she and her family are facing. Her eldest son stood in the crowd. The tears rolled down his cheeks. His father, a Nigerian, lost his High Court appeal against his deportation last week.

"I feel so ashamed that our government could act with such inhumanity," said Deirdre O'Shea, longtime campaigner against racism and spokesperson for Residents Against Racism, which organised Saturday's picket. She called on Justice Minister John O'Donoghue "to exercise his responsibilities under the UN Charter of Human Rights, and revoke the deportation orders on these men."


Test Case


Two test cases came to the High Court yesterday on Wednesday 20 March. Asylum seekers have taken the government to court to contest the decision to deport them away from their children, who are constitutionally entitled to Irish citizenship because they were born in this country.

Up to now, parents have usually been given leave to remain on the basis that their Irish children have the right to the "care, company and parentage" of their parents within the family unit. The Supreme Court originally (1990, in the case of Fajujonu) held that only interests of the "common good" and "the protection of the state and society" could justify any interference with the child's constitutional rights.

O'Donoghue now wishes to change all of this and to have the power to deport the parents of Irish children. The decision in these cases will affect many other refugees and asylum seekers who seek the right to bring their families up in this country.

"The hypocrisy of this government is mind boggling," said O'Shea. "On the one hand the government protests its commitment to fighting racism, and on the other, it seeks a court decision to separate children of asylum seekers from their parents on the largely racist grounds that the minister doesn't want their parents to stay here. The minister is looking to differentiate between the rights of refugees' Irish children, who are of course often black, and the rights of white Irish children, to live with their families. It is an appalling indictment of this government and its make-believe anti-racist policies."

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