30 April 1998 Edition

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No Racism-No Deportations

Michael Pierse explains the background to last week's anti-racist rally in Dublin

``Refugees in, Racists out'' was the clear message to Minister for Justice John O'Donoghue at an anti-racism, anti-deportations rally of several thousand people last Saturday in Dublin's city centre. The march, from the Department of Justice to the GPO was organised by the Anti Racism Campaign, Anti Fascist Action and the Association of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Ireland.

The Happy City Samba Band lent a carnival atmosphere to the march and the general exhuberance was symbolised by the many colourful banners lining the way.

Other events took place in Galway, Cork, Limerick, Roscrea and Belfast. 400 people attended the march in Cork and 100 in Limerick. Pickets were also organised at Irish embassies in London, Bonn, Paris, Brussels and Stockholm, and at the Irish Consulate in San Francisco.

Most daily national newspapers ignored this newsworthy collection of activities - which clearly dwarfed the well covered Gardaí march for higher pay.

The clearly emerging racism in Irish society has become an issue of concern. Landu Kulabutulu, the 17 year-old victim of the latest racist attack, is likely to have been targeted because of his skin colour and this has highlighted claims that a fascist, anti-immigrant group is being set up in Dublin. An immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, Kulabutulu was kicked and beaten about the head with a bottle in Lower Liffey Street two weeks ago. He was saved by a French tourist and brought to the Mater Hospital, where he received 16 stitches to his face and head. Kulabutulu had fled his homeland following the murder of his parents and now fears for his safety here.

Already grafitti throughout the country promoting such fascist slogans as ``white supremacy' and ``niggers out'' accompanied by Nazi swastikas has left people wondering if we are still the land of céad míle fáilte.

Also, the emergence of a more conservative and infinitely more dangerous body of ``immigration control'' supporters under the guidance of the insular minded Aine Ní Chonaill is a worrying development. By effectively victimising refugees by arguing that we should look after our own first, Ní Chonaill and her likes have succeeded in directing animosity away from the government and towards those who are among the most vulnerable in our society. In essence, refugees are being scapegoated for unemployment, homelessness, housing problems and other problems faced by Irish society today

The same process of discrimination has been underway against the Travelling Community, who have often been implicated by right-wing groups as the instigators of their own difficulties in society and the spark-plugs for anti traveller prejudice.

At present there are 4,000-5,000 asylum seekers in Ireland. They are not permitted to work or study, usually for several years, until their cases are heard. They face a shower of ignorant invective from the ``I'm not racist, but...'' brigade of the media. As Daithí Doolan of Dublin Sinn Féin stated at the recent Ard Fheis, the use of deceptive terminology such as ``the rising tide'' or ``flood of migrants'' has induced a siege mentality into Irish culture. Aidan Perry of Anti Fascist Action put this into perspective at Saturday's rally when he commented that ``there are more Irish people in Munich than there are immigrants in Ireland. The press and politicians alike talk about the need to put Irish people first. As if they were just on the point of housing all the homeless when refugees started arriving.''

During the bad economic times of the 1980s, when 40,000 emigrants were leaving this country every year, Irish Government ministers appealed to the US Government to grant an amnesty to Irish ``illegals'' who had sought more prosperous lives there. Millions of people have emigrated from Ireland. How can we now be hypocritically transposing into a racist and incompassionate society? Economic success certainly does breed corruption and the danger is, that instead of rightly blaming the system for their predicament, working class communities will be used by the right-wing to lead the attack on migrants.

Since Febuary this year 12 asylum seekers have been deported by the Irish Government who have indicated that they will allow only 10% of immigrants to remain here. As what is termed ``economic migrants'' and not ``genuine refugees'', the other 90% are likely to face deportation. This policy was seen in action recently when a Ukranian immigrant, on being told he was to be deported, slit his wrists in a drastic bid to avoid a fate he could not face in his own country. He was then taken temporarily to a Dublin hospital and promptly deported to Britain and from there to the Ukraine.

As Sinn Féin TD Caoimghín O Caoláin commented, in an address read on his behalf by Pat Guerin to the rally, ``as a nation which has for centuries known the pain of enforced exile we above all must defend the rights of those people fleeing political persecution and economic deprivation.''

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1