Volume 1 Issue 1
Anti Racism Campaign ARC Hotline 088-2129770
On Monday December 14th Joseph Ekundayo Omoniyi - a Nigerian asylum seeker - was arrested and taken to Mountjoy prison as Department of Justice officials made preparations for his deportation. Ekundayo managed to make a telephone call to the Association of Nigerian Asylum Seekers in Ireland (ANASI), who immediately contacted the Anti Racism Campaign (ARC). Within hours, there was a noisy picket of approximately 80 people outside Mountjoy, demanding Ekundayo's release.
Members of ANASI managed the following day (Tuesday) to hire legal representation for Ekundayo, and an appointment for the legal team to meet with their client was made for early Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, news came through that a second asylum seeker - Julien Costian from Romania - had been incarcerated in Mountjoy as he awaited deportation. The prison was picketed again on Tuesday night, this time there were over 100 people present and at last the media began to show an interest thanks to tireless work by ARC's media coordinators.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning - knowing that he was due to meet his legal representatives just a few hours later - immigration officers removed Ekundayo from the prison and brought him to Dublin airport where attempts were made to put him on a 7 a.m. Aer Lingus flight to Brussels. Ekundayo refused however to go meekly to his death (He fled Nigeria where he had been imprisoned for pro-democracy activities and faces almost certain death if returned there). By physically resisting attempts to put him on the plane, he bought time to ensure that legal moves could be initiated to prevent the deportation. Immediately on hearing of Ekundayo's removal from Mountjoy, Pat Guerin of ARC, and members of ANASI, had gone to the airport. Along with Ekundayo's legal team, they went straight to the High Court where they got an injunction preventing the deportation, and dashed back to the airport to ensure no further efforts were made to force him onto a plane.
On Wednesday evening when the picket on Mountjoy resumed, spirits were high. A certain deportation had been prevented. In addition, a legal team representing Julien Costian had got a stay on his deportation from the High Court.
On the morning of Thursday 17th, Ekundayo was brought to Dublin District Court where he was charged with assaulting an immigration officer during his resistance to deportation the previous day. He was refused bail and remanded in custody. Meanwhile on Thursday, two more Romanian asylum seekers were arrested in Wexford and taken to Mountjoy.
On Friday, legal representatives for these two people - provided through the Irish Council for Civil Liberties at the request of ARC - managed to get a stay on their deportation. On Friday evening, representatives of ARC placed a picket on the O'Connell St. offices of Aer Lingus. Protesters called on Aer Lingus workers to refuse to co-operate with deportations.
In the days leading up to Christmas, the three Romanians were eventually freed from prison by order of the High Court and they currently await judicial review of their cases. Unfortunately, bail was refused to Ekundayo until Monday January 11th, and he was forced to spend Christmas in prison. He still faces trial on the assault charge, and his deportation case is also listed for judicial review.
The events of these couple of weeks taught us all some very important lessons. Firstly, it is clear that if we had not successfully stepped in in these cases, these four people and possibly many more would have joined the 53 asylum seekers already deported in 1998. It demonstrated that the threat of deportations had to be taken seriously and that the Anti Racism Campaign - in tandem with other anti racist organisations - has to be ready and willing to act at short notice.
Finally it showed that the twin tactics of public protests and court action can be successful, that there is no point in asylum seekers faced with deportation simply keeping their heads down in the hope that the threat will go away. We must strengthen our campaign, and take on the politicians who are pursuing a policy of deportations.
United we can defeat deportations. You too have a role to play. Get in touch with ARC and have your name placed on our telephone tree for urgent contact when deportations are threatened.
Belmondo Wantete, an electrical engineer from the Congo, has lived in Ireland with his wife and young children for nearly four years, and has resident status. He was forced to leave his own country because of political oppression. Since May 1st 1998, he has been subjected to the most appalling harassment and racism by members of the Gardai.
On May 1st 1998, his home was raided at 3am by Gardai, on foot of a warrant in someone else's name. They shouted threats and racist abuse and pushed a gun through his letterbox. They then broke in and Mr. Wantete was beaten around the house, and his young children were dragged from their beds during the ensuing search. Eventually he was taken to Sundrive Road Garda station and held for twelve hours without access to an interpreter or a solicitor. He was subsequently held in jail for a week before bail was arranged. No charges were brought against him, and the Gardai admitted that the warrant was for someone else. Weeks later, he was charged with assaulting two Gardai during the raid.
On September 6th 1998, Mr. Wantete was again arrested on a warrant in someone else's name. Despite the fact that ID papers were produced by his solicitor and members of Residents Against Racism, he was held for five hours.
On another occasion, he was arrested and charged with failing to carry proper ID. When the case came up in the District Court on 25th September 1998, the arresting Garda admitted he knew Mr. Wantete well and had no doubt about his identity, but insisted he had the right to demand specific ID. The judge ruled that the ID produced was correct and sufficient, and dismissed the charge.
There have been numerous other charges for minor motoring offences. Each case has been an excuse to repeatedly drag him through the courts. This treatment has been going on for nearly a year and Mr. Wantete has been convicted of nothing. The assault charge will not be heard in the Circuit Court until June 8th.
Mr. Wantete's case has been taken up by Residents Against Racism, a local campaign group unconnected to any political organisation. They have been busy highlighting the case and campaigning for the Minister for Justice to have the charges against Mr. Wantete dropped.
Residents Against Racism can be contacted at PO. Box 6371, Crumlin, Dublin 12.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire is located in central Africa. It cover 2,450,000 km2 and has a population of approximately 45 million. 6 million of whom live in the capital; Kinshasa. The D.R.C. is divided into 9 provinces containing at least 400 ethnic groups. Among the largest are Bangala, Bakongo, Baluba, Bamongo and Balunda. The official language is French, although regional languages such as Lingala, Kicongo, Sawhili and Tshiluba are widely spoken.
The D.R.C. has many interesting geographical features. It contains 48% of the world's rainforests. Its largest river, the Congo, is the second largest in Africa and the second most powerful in the world. The D.R.C. is famous for its nature reserves, which contain some animals not to be found anywhere else in the world, for example, the Okapi, the White Rhinoceros and rare species of gorilla. In the mountains of the South-east coast can be found the extremely rare "blind fish"
The D.R.C. is rich in natural mineral resources including copper, cobalt, manganese and gold. Industries built up around these reserves were once a source of great wealth to the country but have been reduced to inefficient levels by corruption and mismanagement.
After gaining independence from Belgium in 1960, Zaire embarked upon a period of democracy with Joseph Kasavuba as its first President. Unfortunately civil war broke out 3 months later, lasting 7 years and killing at least 500,000 people. In November 1965 Mobuto Sese Seko sized power through a coup d'etat, backed by troops from Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the USA, all of which had their own agendas and had brokered profitable deals with Mobutu. He began one of the strongest and bloodiest dictatorships in Africa which lasted 32 years. During this time gross abuses of human rights occurred. Tens of thousands of unarmed civilians were massacred, journalists and human rights workers were imprisoned , tortured and murdered.
On May 17th 1997 Laurant Desire Kabila was inaugurated as president. Supported by Mubutu's former allies, he promised to uphold human rights and allow elections to be held. Not much has changed, however. Opposition parties are still banned, massacres of thousands of refugees from neighbouring Burundi and Rwanda are still taking place and UN fact-finding teams have repeatedly been denied access to troubled areas.
The Anti Racism Campaign was formed in the summer of 1997, in response to growing racism in Dublin and throughout Ireland. The following is taken from the agreed founding statement of ARC:-
'The Anti Racism Campaign is an open and democratic alliance of people who came together to combat the anti-refugee and anti-immigrant hysteria initiated and encouraged by politicians and the media. We support equal rights for refugees and immigrants; work, welfare, housing and entry into Ireland. We also oppose the racist treatment that has been experienced by Travellers (an Irish ethnic minority).
We are against immigration controls and refuse to separate people into 'deserving' (refugees) and 'non-deserving (immigrants). Millions of Irish people have emigrated in search of a better life. For the Irish government to deny people entry is particularly hypocritical and discriminatory.
Racism does not offer any solution to poverty here. It is an attempt to hold foreign born people responsible for the Irish government's neglect of working class communities Racism divides ordinary tax paying workers and unemployed people on the grounds of colour, and deflects us into fighting among ourselves. Meanwhile the government gives away our tax money in grants to big business and tax amnesties for the rich.
The main problem we face is not small groups of racist thugs, it is institutional racism: the biggest problems faced by refugees and immigrants (denial of entry, denial of employment rights etc.) are caused by government.
We strive to combat racist myths; and to organise large numbers to oppose racist lies, agitation and legislation. It is the aim of ARC to empower people to help themselves, to bring ordinary people together in order to make our actions more effective. We welcome all anti-racists: Irish, Travellers, refugees and immigrants.'
Since our foundation, ARC has worked closely with other anti-racist campaigns and with refugee organisations such as the Association of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Ireland (ARASI) and the Association of Nigerian Asylum Seekers in Ireland (ANASI). In particular, we have worked closely with Immigrant Solidarity (based in Cork) and Mid-West Against Racism (based in the Clare/Limerick area). Work is progressing on the launching of a 'National Federation of Campaigns Against Racism' which will ensure greater co-ordination and sharing of resources and information between these campaigns.
There are many things which you as an individual or an organisation can do to help us, both directly and indirectly. If you would like to become directly involved and have 1 or 2 hours to spare, you can attend weekly meetings on Wednesdays at 8p.m. in the Vietnamese Centre, Hardwicke Street, Dublin 1 (near Parnell square).
you could help out at our information stall every Saturday from 1 - 3pm outside the Bank of Ireland, College Green (opposite Trinity College). Phone 088 - 2129770 for more details.
Indirect help can also be given by way of sponsorship either financially (TSB Henry St.,Bank ac.no.00805201 sorting code 990619) or services in kind (e.g. goods or services such as computer rental, Web page design, fund raising advice etc.)
The letter provided within can be photocopied and sent to the Monster for Justice and your local TDs.
You can show this newsletter to your friends and colleagues and encourage awareness of the problems faced by Refugees and Asylum Seekers, both in their countries of origin and in 'Ireland of the Thousand Welcomes' (NOT!!!!).
At first glance, it might appear to be a very radical position to say that we are against all immigration controls and for the free movement of people. However when you consider the fact that the system of global capitalism under which our world is governed allows for the totally unfettered free movement of capital, why then can the same not be allowed for people?
It is a fact that the vast majority of refugees and asylum seekers come from countries in the so-called 'Third World' - countries which have suffered centuries of exploitation by the West. The natural resources and wealth of many of these countries were - and indeed continue to be - the raw materials on which the wealth of western governments is based. Their resources having been stolen from them, people in the 'Third World' are then told that they must get on with their lives, living often in countries torn apart by civil war, usually as a result of artificial borders drawn up by the imperialist powers who ripped them off in the first place.
Under United Nations regulations, for a refugee to be 'genuine' he/she must be able to prove that he/she is in danger of political persecution if returned to his/her country of origin. ARC's position however is that we do not distinguish between 'political' and 'economic' refugees. We believe that someone fleeing poverty, possibly facing death through starvation, has the right to move elsewhere in search of a better life.
After all, Irish government ministers spent the whole of the 1980s and the early years of the 1990s encouraging us to emigrate, to go somewhere else - anywhere else!! - because the Irish economy, then in recession, couldn't support us all. Many of us were left with no option and tens of thousands of Irish people took the boat or plane to the US, Britain, Australia, Canada and elsewhere. Many people travelled to the US as illegal economic immigrants and government ministers made numerous trips to Washington to plead for more 'green cards' for Irish illegals.
It is our history of forced emigration which should convince us to be welcoming to people forced to leave their homes and come here. Let's not become the nation of emigrants which rejects immigrants.
Irish Traveller Movement.
4 Eustace Street,
Tel: 6796578 Fax:6796578
Voice of Traveller (paper)
Unit 24a Williamsons Mall
PO Box 178,
Mid West Against Racism
meet in the Kings Island Youth and Community Development Centre,
on Wedensdays at 7.00 pm
10 Upper Camden Street,
Tel: 4783490 Fax: 06522026
Association of Nigerain asylum Seekers in Ireland (ANASI)
c/o 4 Preswick Street ,
Association of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Ireland
213 North Circular Road,
Democratic Republic of Congo Solidarity Group.
c/o COMHLAMH address.
Irish Refugee Council
33/36 Aran Quay,
Tel: 8724424 Fax: 8724411
1 Bank Place,
Tel: 065-22026 Fax: 065-22026
National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns.
Co-ordinator John O
c/o 101 Villa Road
Birmingham B21 1 NH
Tel: 0121 554 6947
Fax: 0870 055 4570
Anti Nazi League
PO Box 4007
Anti Facist Action
PO Box 3355,
Tel: 088 2128466
Residents Against Racism.
PO. Box 6371,
Ogoni Solidarity Ireland.
10 College Manor Drumcondra,
Amnesty International (Irish Section)
48 Fleet Street,
Tel: 6776361 Fax: 8551460
Irish Black and Migrant Women
c/o COMHLAMH Address.
Bosnian Community Development Project.
40 Pearse Street,
This is a small selection of the anti-racist/pro-immigrant groups we are in contact with or know off. If you would like your group to be added to this list don't hesitate to get in touch. [Contact ARC not the web page maintainer]
Over the page is a sample letter which can be photocopied and posted to the Minister for Justice or you may wish to wish to compose you own protest. You might also try to get your friends and workmates or even your union branch to sign such a letter.
We hope to have the E-Mail address for the department of justice for issue 2 so you can pester them night and day.
To:Minister John O' Donoghue, Dept. of Justice, equality and Law reform, 72-76 St. Stephen's Green. Dublin 2.
I/We write to you in support refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland. This is a country thousands of whose citizens found a welcome in countries all over the world. Yet we reject the tiny handful of people who seek refuge here. These people left their home countries fleeing economic misery, political persecution and often the threat of death. We urge you not to let a rigid adherence to procedures blind you to the humanity of those seeking refuge in Ireland.
Help us to make ARC news a regular occurance send articles on PC disk as txt, rtf or word for windows documents (if possible) to ARC c/o Comhlamh, 10 Upr Camden Street, Dublin2
Phone us 088-2129770