Independent Media Centre Ireland

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

{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.

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