23 September 2004 Edition

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Rights for migrant workers urged

A campaign to recognise the positive contributions that immigrant communities have made to Irish society by urging the government to provide an amnesty for immigrants was launched last Saturday in Liberty Hall.

Brendan Archbold of the Mandate trade union spoke at the launch of the Amnesty for All campaign. While backing the thrust of the campaign, he focused on the appaling lack of rights of migrant workers, who have similar legal status to indentured labourers of the past. A migrant worker who secures a work permit to come to Ireland is here by leave of his employer, who holds his permit to work.

Brendan talked about the difficulties migrant workers face in securing their rights under the Equality Act or under Labour legislation. "Few are unionised, most are afraid of losing their job. It is a hard problem for the unions to crack." Meanwhile, there are outrageous anecdotes of migrant workers doing unpaid overtime, working appaling hours in dirty and dangerous jobs, living in tied accommodation, where they may share one room with a group of fellow workers, with exorbitant 'rent' deducted at source.

"Unless the migrant worker feels sufficiently secure in his job, or his right to be here, he remains reluctant to complain, or take any action to which the law entitles him," said Brendan.

"The Minister needs to address the rights of migrant workers. As it is, promised legislation has not even been proposed. This Government has not even ratified the UN conventions on migrant workers."

Plea for parents of Irish-born

"When the Citizenship referendum is passed, then we can address legislation for the people who are already in Ireland," said Minister McDowell at the time of the referendum, which was passed three months ago, yet the problem that Minister of Justice alleged to be so urgent at that time has not been heard of since.

There are some 11,000 people who have come as refugees to Ireland who claimed the right to stay here on the basis of their Irish born children. They have been living here, sometimes for as long as six years, in some cases more. They have since had families here. Whilst they remain here, they have no entitlement to work or study. They remain in a legal limbo, under threat of deportation.

Two young people, Celina and Antonia Coderean, from Romania, spoke at the launch of the Amnesty campaign. They have been living here with their parents for eight years.

The Chen case in Europe last Spring, where Mrs Chen, in a provisional judgement of the court, won the right to stay in the EU on the grounds that deportation would infringe the rights of her Belfast-born child, gives hope that perhaps the Dublin Minister may relent and give amnesty to all those with Irish born children who want to stay in Ireland.

Residents Against Racism, which has been active over the summer months campaigning for the rights of those who are immediately facing deportation, is holding a protest march on 29 September, assembling at 12.30pm at the Central Bank, marching to Leinster House. There, they will greet the TDs on their return and make the case for the right of the parents of these Irish-born children to be given the right to stay in the country in which they have made their homes.

An Phoblacht
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Dublin 1