Immigrant Council of Ireland fighting ‘trafficking’ enforcing border controls

The Immigrant Council of Ireland, a supposedly ‘migrant-support’ NGO, has just announced a new initiative to combat ‘human trafficking’ and ‘sham marriages’. Together with the Department of Justice’s Anti-Trafficking Unit, the ICI joins poorer EU states Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovakia in an EU funded research on ‘the issue of human trafficking for the purpose of sham marriage’.

NGOs such as the ICI have been problematic for a long time now. Purporting to support migrants, it has no problem in joining forces with the government in researching, publishing reports and initiating policies the aim of which is ultimately (in the ICI’s own words) to ‘regulate’, ‘mainstream’ and ‘control’ migration into Ireland, and to ‘integrate’ those migrants permitted to remain.

A ‘sham’ or ‘fake’ marriage is defined as a ‘marriage of convenience’ entered into for the purpose of gaining a benefit, in this case leave to remain for a non EU national in an EU state. In many cases it’s the only way for an asylum seeker or migrant, otherwise deemed ‘illegal’, to enter and remain in a western state. I remember finding photographs in my father’s collection of a woman we didn’t know, only to discover that while studying in a Prague university, he married a local Jewish woman so as to save her from remaining in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia as it was then called. Upon arrival in Palestine a quick divorce was arranged, but father kept the woman’s photograph, knowing that had he not married her – in a ‘sham marriage’ as it would now be called – she would have been sent to the Nazi camps.

I do admit that there are many ruthless gangs of traffickers who force women and children into sex slavery (in India, for example, 60,000 children are abducted each year for sex slavery), but this is a completely different issue. My unstinted support for the ICI’s Stop the Red Light campaign against the exploitation of women and children in Ireland’s sex industry has changed somewhat recently. While I definitely do not support men’s god given right to have sex whenever and however they please, or criminal gangs making billions from trafficking children and women for sex purposes, we need to differentiate between this and the erroneous assumption that all women brought to Ireland by so called ‘traffickers’ are victims, as claimed by EUROPOL, the Department of Justice, and by NGOs such as the ICI. Most asylum seekers need smugglers to get them to safety, and using smugglers is often the only way these women migrants – as free and active agents – can find their way out of oppression and misery.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland is funded by the EU to join forces with the Irish government that still incarcerates thousands of asylum seekers in direct provision and stops many others from presenting their asylum applications. This shameless collaboration will result in further controlling Fortress Europe’s policed borders, the consequences of which we have all witnessed recently in the drowning of hundreds of migrants escaping the horrors of Syria, Afghanistan and Africa in the Mediterranean.

After Gaza, Again

gaza_child_dead_400Of course I am happy about the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. After eight days of pounding Gaza’s population, and the barrage of rockets on Israeli civilians, any cessation in hostilities is welcome. While I am fully aware of the horrors faced by friends in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, this attack has been so much worse for the people of Gaza just four years after operation ‘Cast Lead’, and of course also for people in the south of Israel. During the eight days173 Palestinians were killed (113 of thom civilians, 38 children and 13 women)

and 6 Israelis (no children) were killed. In the year preceding the onslaught, 64 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, 5 in the West Bank, and no Israelis. Since the first rocket fell on Israeli soil in April 2001, 59 Israelis were killed and 4,717 Palestinian.

Meanwhile, the US gave Israel 8.2m dollars per day. The reality of the death of children and the devastation  in Gaza has been whitewashed in the western media as all social networks report.

The conflagration could never achieve its aims – the Israeli military did not stop the rockers and the rockets did not stop the Israeli military attack. But I cannot help thinking about the inevitability and imbalance of it all. There are many often forgotten but worth retelling facts about Gaza, as the Israeli (Jewish) blogger Eyal Clyne documents. The Gaza ‘Strip’ is an artificial space created by Israel after its establishment in 1948, when Israel chose not to incorporate it. Most Gazans are 1948 refugees, not allowed to return to their homes. Gaza was forcibly governed by Egypt until it was occupied by Israel in 1967, when a third of it was confiscated to build military camps and Jewish settlements. Continue reading “After Gaza, Again”

Is Irish antiracism re-awakening?

On 20 April 2010 I attended a roundtable run by the Equality Authority in Dublin to discuss antiracism. While several of us attending have sat in similar roundtables and other forums for the past 15 years to discuss racism and antiracism, Toyosi Shitta-bey’s killing on Good Friday has clearly moved the EA – curtailed and under-funded though it is – to convene this forum, in a genuine attempt to mobilise members of migrant and ethnic minority groups.

The main speakers were, as usual, white, settled Irish people, but around the table were leaders of migrant-led groups and networks (mostly Africans, with scant representation for Asians and Eastern Europeans, and only one Traveller, Ellen Mongan, the only Traveller who has ever sat on a local authority council). Everyone was asked to speak, and participants outlined their experiences of racism, and spoke of the anger and fear in their groups and neighbourhoods. A few  ‘usual suspects’ proposed what has been proposed so many times before: establishing an antiracism forum,  reforming the useless 1989 Incitement to Hatred Act (promised so many time by successive ministers for justice),  educating and holding information campaigns ( the government has clamped down on public awareness campaigns, but  one wonder were these ever really useful?) Continue reading “Is Irish antiracism re-awakening?”