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Inishowen Community Radio interviews RAR's Rosanna Flynn

category donegal | racism & migration related issues | news report author Tuesday April 19, 2005 20:19author by redjade Report this post to the editors

{Recorded, Transcribed, & Napsterised by redjade } The following is a transcription of the 'Talk Time' show 4:05pm 19 April 2005 from Inishowen Community Radio: It can be listened to at [mp3 format, X minutes, 4.4 MB].

[ note from redjade: apologies, I didn't catch the name of the interviewer ] One of the very serious aspects of Irish life nowadays has been the government's attitude to asylum seekers in the country. And I am sure you all remember the young lad Kunle from Nigeria who, thankfully, ended up returning to the country. It was the day the Pope died, I think, so it was a bit over-shadowed.

Since then things have not gotten rosy or have not improved for asylum seekers here. And only this morning it came to our attention that another family are under the same sort of threat based out at Co Westmeath.

But there are some excellent organisations out there who are campaigning on this whole issue. One of them is Residents Against Racism. And their spokesperson Rosanna Flynn is on the phone with me at the moment.

Hello Rosanna.

Rosanna: Hi, how are you? Rosanna you were at a major demonstration today outside Dáil Éireann, can you tell us why you were there?

Rosanna: We were there because the Department of Justice sent out very strange letters to asylum seekers in at least two hostels in Dublin. A lot of these people there are parents of Irish children - some of them are not, but a lot of them are - a lot have been handed the standard letter saying we have received your letter looking to get residency on grounds of being parents of an Irish [citizen] child. It is in the system, disregard any further correspondence.

Last Wednesday they got a letter or a form from the Garda National Immigration Bureau saying that as a person who does not have permission to stay in the state you are required to stay at [the hostel] and you must not on any account move from that address.

Although some of these people have spouses as far away from Dublin as Cork and Ennis - all over Ireland really - It only mentions they were sending someone around from the GNIB at 5pm each day - but, in fact, when they came around they demanded that they signed-on at 10am in the morning as well as 5pm. Which means that they can't go and visit their families, even, if they are some distance from Dublin. And if they do not comply with it they can be fined 3,000 euro and/or sent to jail for 12 months - or both. And that they are subject to arrest by any member of an Garda Siochana without warrant. It sounds... its as close to internment without trial you are going to get. But Rosanna on the 13th of April in order to protest their situation 70 of the asylum seekers went on hunger strike.

Rosanna: Yes they did at the Gardiner Street hostel. Later some more from Hatch street hostel joined them. Some of the women were breast-feeding and they have now withdrawn from the hunger strike as have some of the men that have serious medical conditions. There are at the moment 48 of them still on hunger strike [at Gardiner street] - they are now taking liquids which they were not doing at the beginning.

They started taking liquids yesterday, because two of the men ended up in hospital. What are their demands exactly?

Rosanna: They want clarification. On the one hand they have the Department of Justice telling them they only have to sign-on once a day. The GNIB Gards telling them they have to sign on twice a day. The Department of Justice has said to take up this matter up with the GNIB - but the GNIB will give them no information whatsoever.

But it actually goes further than that - the parents want to be united with their children, also all these hunger strikers and all the people who got the letters are Nigerians. Other people from other parts of Africa and other countries have not got that letter. They fear that it is a pre-notice of deportation. They wish to highlight the fact that Nigeria is listed as a 'Safe Country' and in fact it is in no way safe. The United States government has a list of countries that are safe for western people to visit and Nigeria is listed as being unsafe or that it is dangerous to go outside your hotel.

There is a lot of business interest that the West has with Nigeria that keep up this fallacy that Nigeria is safe when, in fact, it is anything but. And all of this is going against a background where the economists are saying - albeit right-wing economists - we need 60,000 immigrants into the country every year to sustain the kind of economic development that we have.

Rosanna: This is what is so absolutely ridiculous! They all want to work. The chant today [from the asylum seekers] was 'The RIght to Stay - The RIght to Work' - we have a 24-hour helpline in Residents Against Racism and apart from asylum issues the biggest query by far is 'Why are we not allowed to work?' Everyone wants to work. Apart from the financial thing, it is a lack of self-respect they feel [when they cannot work]. Absolutely. For anyone to suggest that people would go through the trauma of having to leave your own country and come to another country so that they could 'sign-on' is just laughable. Its beyond comprehension that any intelligent person would put that argument forward.

One of the stories that brought it home to everyone was the story of Kunle who was deported apparently in his school uniform. And this morning another family are under the exact same threat with two young girls - aged 15 and 17 - also in school here in Ireland.

Rosanna: ...It just cannot be allowed to go on. This has happened many times before. Its simply that it wasn't well covered by the media. It was by people like yourself, but it has been an uphill battle to get the message out there - over Kunle and over two women from Athlone, who I know. I have spoken to them on the phone several times. Elizabeth and Iyabo, whose children were left in school and they were deported. The people from Athlone got very very angry about this. They didn't know quite what to do - they contacted us and we said 'No, we're not going to do it - It can't be Dublin telling everyone else what to do, that would be awful - go to your local papers, go to your local teachers, your local priests, people in your own community.' And they did that and they did it so well - the teachers at the local school, the local papers, the editor of one of the local papers was up all night changing the front page to support Elizabeth and Iyabo.

There are people in Castleblaney that did the same thing around the Okollie family. Nketchi, who I also know. And I have also spoken to her on the phone - Nketchi is in hiding with her three children because - to show you how undemocratic Nigeria is, women have no rights at all - before they are married they belong to the eldest in their father's family. And after they are married that transfers to the eldest in their husband's family. So, the children of all these three women are hiding with their children because they know that the husband's family will be attempting to take the children away from them. I suppose the one thing that your campaign has shown is that people all over the country are waking up to what is going on on their door steps and have been coming out. Relating not to some abstract group of people but people who they meet in their neighborhoods everyday and people that they have got to know, and who their children have got to know at school.

Rosanna what is the next stage in your campaign and how can people in a far-flung place - away from Dublin - like Inishowen get involved?

Rosanna: Yeah, certainly if anyone needs any advice call us on our helpline. It is important to get local communities coordinated and by doing that put pressure on local councilors, politicians, get everyone involved. That needs to happen. I always knew that most Irish people did not want this sort of treatment that asylum seekers get to be going on at all. People care about families, about children, and they don't want their friends and companions treated like this. Up until now people thought 'what can we do?' - they felt powerless. There is such a thing as 'people power' which we must exert.

There is a national demonstration in Dublin on the 18th of June. We would encourage everyone to either have local demonstrations on that same day or come to Dublin if that is possible, whatever you want to do. We can communicate with each other, coordinate with each other and put pressure on the politicians from all around the country.

We have a few demands, this is what we want in Residents Against Racism.

We want the people from that last forced deportation brought back. Its no good bringing one person back - it's wonderful for Kunle, and fair play to the pupils from his school. They did a wonderful thing and they are still involved, once they get their exams behind them they will become more involved. We want those people to be brought back. We want all deportations stopped.

Asylum seekers be given the right to work and prove that they are a valuable asset to Ireland.

We also want asylum taken out of the hands of politicians and a body set up, such as the Human Right Commission, because asylum is a human rights issue. Well, Rossana Flynn thank you very much joining us today on 'Talk Time' perhaps you have that number there in front of you for people who might want to get in touch.

Rosanna: yes, it's 087 666 2060 Thank you for joining us today. Congratulations on your protest this afternoon outside Dáil Érieann and I hope that the coverage you get might push the government in the right direction on this issue.

author by redjadepublication date Tue Apr 19, 2005 21:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Time to end asylum stupidity
By Fintan O'Toole

On economic grounds alone, the current system is madness. The Government spent over €1.1 billion on services for asylum seekers over the four-year period to the end of 2003. Perversely, much of this money was spent on being nasty. The "direct provision" policy of keeping asylum seekers in centres is hugely expensive. So, indirectly, is the policy of not allowing them to work. (Countries such as Germany, Holland, Sweden, Austria and Belgium all allow asylum seekers to work within a year of their asylum application being lodged.) So too is the system of reviewing applications which results in many of them being rejected in the first instance and then granted, perhaps a year later, on appeal. This means simply that the State pays to keep people it subsequently accepts as genuine refugees in suspended animation, giving them unnecessary grief and wasting more taxpayers' money.

The current system turns adults into children by making them completely dependent on the State and demands that their children be raised in hostels. It involves backlogs which in turn involve the deportation of adults who have been here for years and of children who know of no other home. It leaves thousands of willing workers, often with very good skills, idle while the Enterprise Strategy Group reckons we need 420,000 new workers by 2010.

Let's end this stupidity by declaring an amnesty for all those who have been here more than two years, clearing the decks and devising a transparent system that does not combine profligacy with meanness.

Related Link:
author by redjadepublication date Tue Apr 19, 2005 22:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

→ International NGO Platform on the Migrant Workers’ Convention
Geneva (19.04.05) - The Platform aims at facilitating the promotion, implementation and monitoring of the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (“the Convention”). It is a civil society initiative to encourage and facilitate non-governmental involvement in the monitoring of the implementation of this core international human rights treaty. The Platform will also engage with the other United Nations treaty supervisory bodies from a migrants’ rights perspective....

Many signatories are Irish NGOs

→ International Migration Convention

note: Ireland has not ratified yet, but neither has a lot of other first world countries

Irish Times Editorial (Tue, Apr 19, 05)
→ Policies on immigration
There is much to ponder in the discussion paper on immigration and residence in Ireland, published last week by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It addresses the reality that people wish to come to Ireland to work and share in the benefits of our thriving economy. More than 100,000 people from outside Europe have migrated here to work over the past five years.
The objectives of policy in this area range from guaranteeing the security of the State to protecting human rights, and providing fair and transparent procedures. The demands of all these objectives may not be easy to reconcile and the document warns that the protections afforded to migrants may not be the same as those available to citizens.

--- --- ---

→ Meanwhile in the UK...

→ → Murdoch opposes Tories on immigration,14173,1463229,00.html
Tuesday April 19, 2005
Rupert Murdoch has dealt a blow to the Tories by coming out against Michael Howard's controversial immigration policy. Mr Murdoch told a Los Angeles conference he did not support a Conservative proposal to cap immigration and threw his weight behind Labour's points system.

- - -

→ Scheme trains refugees for NHS
A Pioneering North-East initiative is helping more than 60 refugee doctors retrain so they can work in the NHS. The Refugee Health Workers Programme was set up in Newcastle in 2000 to try to make use of the skills of refugee health workers. So far, it has signed up 69 medically-qualified refugees, 35 with nursing qualifications and ten dentists.

- - -

→ Refugees fill gap in doctor shortage
Apr 19 2005
Refugee doctors are being trained to plug shortages in North East hospitals and GP surgeries. [....] At an average cost of £1,500 per person, the programme is plugging NHS staff gaps at a tiny fraction of the £200,000 that the Department of Health spent on each British medical student.

Manager Maggie Stewart said: "As well as helping asylum seekers off benefits and into work they are already trained to do, this is helping us find more doctors for our hospitals and more GPs. "As well as doctors, we have nurses, radiographers and dentists. Most are from Iraq and Iran but there are some from Cuba, Guatemala and places in Africa too."

author by redjadepublication date Tue Apr 19, 2005 22:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I haven't read it yet - so I can't judge it yet...

go download....

Immigration and Residence in Ireland
Outline policy proposals for an Immigration and Residence Bill


Discussion Paper$File/discussion.pdf

author by hughpublication date Wed Apr 20, 2005 10:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"For anyone to suggest that people would go through the trauma of having to leave your own country and come to another country so that they could 'sign-on' is just laughable. Its beyond comprehension that any intelligent person would put that argument forward. "

I don't want to be blunt but... It would make perfect sense to leave poverty and desperation to come to Ireland and try out whats on offer. The Irish welfare system at its most basic can offer food and shelter. Thats more than some people have. On top of that there are the financial payouts. Top that off with work in the black economy and its a long way from barely existing.

Naturally this is understandable and we'd all do the same if we were in the same position.

author by Fearghal O Boyle - Inishowen Community Radiopublication date Wed Apr 20, 2005 12:50author email fearghaloboyle at icrfm dot ieauthor address author phone 074 93 29105Report this post to the editors

Many thanks to Redjade for putting this up on indymedia. I would just like to add that any campaigning organisations who are using indymedia to publicise events and campaigns are welcome on the icrfm airwaves to make their case. Access to the media doesn't have to be confrontational or bruising and groups should consider using the community radio stations around the country more often. Check out the Craol website, www. for a list of all the community stations in the country.

author by Mark Grehanpublication date Wed Apr 20, 2005 13:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hugh, there is no social welfare in Nigeria and they do not come to Ireland for social welfare. When people arrive in Ireland they have no idea what social welfare is. Many of them, especially in the two hostels concerned, are highly educated with qualifications. Having talked to them myself they are extremely depressed that they cannot work and contribute to Irish society. It is quite simply untrue what you are saying.

author by Caoimhepublication date Wed Apr 20, 2005 13:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Asylum seekers are not actually in the Irish Welfare system, they are in a system called Direct Provision which has significantly lower rates of assistance than the welfare payments.

Under the system of Direct Provision an asylum seeker is entitled to €19.10 per week and €9.55 per child. They are also entitled to three meals a day (in their hostel) and shelter (i.e. in a hostel).

Studies have consistently shown that this does not in fact cover basic food needs. Pregnant women and children have been found to be undernourished. Some women were found to be so malnourished that they physically could not breastfeed. There isn't a person in the planet that would choose to live like this. Often the food provided in these hostels are completely unsuited to the dietary needs of the people living in them

Some asylum seekers who have no choice but to work in the black market do so very dangerously as if they are found to be breaking any of the laws in this country it goes very seriously against their asylum claim. However undoubtly there are some who due to lack of other alternatives are forced to do this work to survive.

To claim that people come here to leave poverty in their own homes, only to face extreme poverty in Ireland (think about how you would try to provide for yourself on €19.10 a week- its impossible) and isolation from the community, is absurd and only takes away from the plight that these people have faced before they reached Ireland. Human beings have a right to a decent standard of living and just because some of these people came from poverty stricken areas, it is no justification to force them to live in extreme poverty in Ireland.

The system of direct provision is inhumane and needs to be abolished.

author by redjadepublication date Wed Apr 20, 2005 14:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Not all the men in the two hostels are fathers of Irish citizen children - but a good many are.

McDowell's sick trick he played on Irish children is this - the offer of residency for non-Irish parents of of Irish citizen kids ONLY applied to parents CURRENTLY living on this island.

Meaning, if the father was elsewhere they could not claim residency here.

In other words, according to McDowell, some Irish citizen kids are deserving of fathers and some are not.

McDowell gets to decide if a kid has a father.

How sick is that?!

author by shitheadpublication date Wed Apr 20, 2005 14:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Win The Argument Than Pay Anything More Than Lip Service To Notions of Justice, Honesty or Morality

He acts Like He Runs The Country and Has Very Little Support In The Grand Scheme Of Things except among the propertied classes.

author by Noelpublication date Wed Apr 20, 2005 15:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I guess the 'propertied classes' you're referring to are not the 75% of Irish people who live in their own home?
More likely the 'propertied classes' are the mill owners who send children up chimneys.

As for popularity, Mr. McDowell topped the poll in his constituency last general election.
That's a lot of mill owners.

author by eeekkkkpublication date Wed Apr 20, 2005 20:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The minority with own home + Investment property or three rented to the 25% without their own home + Holiday home down the country in somewhere unspoilt like roscommon for instance

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