4 November 1999 Edition

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Minister's true colours unchanged

Dublin Justice Minister John O'Donoghue faced an embarrassing protest over the deportation of refugees this week, ironically as he launched a government initiative aimed at making Irish society more inclusive.

Despite the protests, 0'Donoghue said that he would press ahead with plans to deport hundreds of asylum-seekers. He was speaking in Dublin Castle at the start of the True Colours initiative, a two-week programme aimed at making society in Ireland more inclusive of Travellers, immigrants and ethnic minorities. A number of protestors held up placards demanding `No deportations' during the minister's speech.

O'Donoghue also declared his intention to introduce a controversial voucher system for asylum seekers to replace cash welfare payments and to have asylum seekers compulsorily finger-printed by the gardaí.

Also speaking at the launch of True Colours, the Chairperson of the Association of Refugees and Asylum seekers, Kensika Monshwego, said that asylum seekers faced blatant and active racism as well as more subtle forms of discrimination based on fear and ignorance. He said there was a direct correlation between negative media commentary on refugees and asylum seekers and violent racist attacks.

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin has slammed the latest government moves on refugees. O Caoláin said that Minister O'Donoghue's actions were making life as difficult as was possible for refugees and asylum seekers: ``John O'Donoghue's actions fly in the face of developing a more inclusive society in this country. The voucher scheme amounts to blatant discrimination against a vulnerable section of people. If vouchers are not good enough for Irish citizens, they should not be imposed on refugees.

``Plans to fingerprint all refugees are an outrageous attack on fundamental human rights and should be vigourously opposed. The forced deportation of asylum seekers must cease immediately. John O'Donoghue cannot implement such disrminatory policies on the one hand and claim to be creatingan inclusive society on the other. There is a basic contradiction.''

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