by Conor Mc Loughlin
Anti Racism Campaign
- personal capacity -
It was the first major demonstration against racism and forced deportations ever to be held in Ireland and comes at a critical juncture. As anarchists we favour open borders throughout the world and make no false divisions between "refugees" and "economic migrants". We support full freedom of movement in a free world.
As of May the Irish state has deported 22 people from this country and over 100 are under threat of deportation (and this doesn't include those who never made it into the process, i.e. those who were turned back at the border, port or airport). Only two refugees received citizenship last year and the Minister for Justice has already assured the Dáil - before their cases have even been examined - that 90% of asylum seekers can expect to be deported. Ireland's immigration laws date back to the 1935 Aliens Act which is mainly copied from Britain's Aliens Restriction Act of 1914 at the beginning of World War I.
This gives the minister almost un-limited power to decide who is let into the country, and when and how they are thrown out. This has been further extended by the EU's Dublin Convention signed in September of 1997. Under this farcical piece of Euro law asylum seekers must apply for status in the first EU country they touch down in.
It is almost impossible to reach Ireland directly without landing in another EU state. This, of course, suits the government nicely and most deportations so far have been under this mechanism. This is the "deportation fast track" described in the last issue of Workers Solidarity.
To make matters even worse, under the recently ratified Amsterdam Treaty anyone whose request for asylum is turned down in one EU country is not allowed to apply in any of the other EU countries.
Even those asylum seekers who get into the process are effectively 'ghosts in the machine'. Each of them is issued with a yellow ID card identifying them as "the person who claims to be .... ". Their non-person status is extended into every aspect of their lives. They are not allowed to work, seek further education, or publicise their claim for asylum in any way.
Combined with draconian state powers we have the scumbags who own and manage the "free press" in this country. In 1953 John Swinton former chief of staff of the New York Times was asked to toast to the freedom of the press by the New York Press Club. In his speech he frankly admitted: "The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell the country for his daily bread.......We are intellectual prostitutes" .
The intellectual prostitutes were quick to move in on refugees with articles like "refugee rapists on the rampage" (the Star), or the article by Mary Ellen Synon in the Sunday Independent which urged those who felt hatred towards refugees to "act on it, use it as a mechanism for correct action". Needless to say, small groups of racists have not been slow to heed this advice and there have been a number of vicious attacks on refugees and foreign students in the last few months.
In this context the marches were a very positive development. As well as Anti Fascist Action, Immigrant Solidarity and the Anti-Racism Campaign, the African Refugee Network and the Association of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Ireland played a major part in building the marches. On the day there was an excellent turn out of refugees and asylum seekers. This was a huge morale booster and it was good to see the numerous small groups working with and for refugees coming together (about 20 different organisations and trade union branches endorsed the marches).
Our aim is that the refugees and asylum seekers will set the agenda in this struggle, though obviously given their legal position it is difficult for them to take action which could jeopardise their asylum claims. We do not see refugees as scroungers, criminals or victims but as brothers and sisters. They earn our respect and solidarity not our pity, and our mission is not to "help them" as victims but to work with them as equals in building a multi- cultural Ireland.
There were various debates and discussions among the groups which put the Dublin march together. The biggest issue was over speakers. The Anti-Nazi League (basically the Socialist Workers Party) were initially involved but they insisted on having speakers from Democratic Left and/or the Labour Party. They pulled out when the other groups would not agree with them.
To exclude the establishment politicians was not an abstract or "ultra-leftist" position. These parties were members of the previous coalition government, which introduced rigid border controls and signed the Dublin Convention. We saw no reason to give them a platform from which to cry big fat crocodile tears. The size of the marched proved that a substantial protest could be built without these parasites.
Another vital factor on the day was international solidarity. Groups such as the Sans Papiers in France organised solid demonstrations at Irish embassies without much notice. Among the many messages of support and letters to the minister were several from anarchists around the globe. These came in as a response to a joint appeal from the Workers Solidarity Movement and Organise-IWA. One message from anarchists in Zambia was particularly apt, reminding the Irish government of its total hypocrisy in lecturing developing countries on their human rights records and then shoving people back to those same countries.
In the wake of the marches the anti-racist groups will be working hard. In Dublin ARC is monitoring the increasing levels of attacks and racism in Dublin. It plans to organise a public meeting, alongside groups like the African Refugee Network and residents & community associations in Rialto (where there have been several racist attacks). Following this, similar meetings will be organised in other areas. ARC is also monitoring and publicising deportations and responding to crap in the media.
Anti-Racism Campaign, c/o 10 Upper Camden Street, Dublin 2 or phone 088-2129770 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or come to a meeting any Wednesday at 8pm in the Vietnamese Centre, Hardwicke Street, or check out their web page - http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/arc.html.
Immigrant Solidarity in Cork and Mid-West Against Racism in Limerick/Clare can both be contacted at 088-2129770