Seanad debates

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business


1:00 pm

Photo of Annie HoeyAnnie Hoey (Labour) | Oireachtas source

Over the weekend I spoke on the Labour Youth panel at our Tom Johnson Summer School about the issue of tackling systemic racism. The speakers on the panel were Amanda Nyoni from the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, MASI, Bernard Joyce from the Irish Traveller Movement, and Dr. Ebun Joseph, who is an incredible lecturer. If Members have a free moment I suggest they take the time to watch that panel discussion, which is available online, on systemic racism in Ireland and the actions we need to take both within ourselves and very much as legislators.

Merely days after we were on that panel talking about what we can do, more issues have arisen here in Ireland. I am extremely concerned about the conditions at the Skellig Star direct provision centre in Cahersiveen and the treatment at the centre, which has led to 32 residents beginning a hunger strike over ongoing problems, including food rationing. The residents are being given 1 l of water a day. There is a boil water notice in place in Cahersiveen. Locals are trying to bring bottled water to the residents, and if they run out of that they have to boil their own water. It is unacceptable and disgraceful that people who come to this country in desperate need of support, help and care cannot even get water. It is unacceptable that this inhumane regime of segregation and isolation is continuing. I am aware the Government has great plans to end the current system of direct provision, but in the meantime, we should at least be able to give people water to drink.

This morning, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission published groundbreaking research conducted with the ESRI. The survey, Hidden versus revealed attitudes: A list experiment on support for minorities in Ireland, demonstrates the extent of racist beliefs in Ireland and shows how far we need to go in tackling racism. It is particularly striking how people with higher education hide the extent of their racism through more socially acceptable responses.

I greatly welcome the report, Invisible People: The Integration Support Needs of Refugee Families Reunified in Ireland, published yesterday by NASC, on family reunification for refugee families. It highlights the many challenges faced by reunification families, including significant barriers to accessing housing, resulting in a high risk of homelessness. If the Leader has an opportunity, I would encourage her to read the Invisible People report.

I fully support calls today from the Immigrant Council of Ireland to overhaul the immigration system. Covid-19 has revealed the huge cracks in our current system. There was a report today about a Pakistani man returning from Poland who was questioned for more than an hour in Dublin Airport. He had to show messages between him and his wife to prove that he had a right to be here in Ireland. That is not the way we treat people coming here. That is not the land of a thousand welcomes that we put on postcards. It is not the way we should treat people.

The establishment of a new Department with responsibility for equality and integration under the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, presents a great opportunity to reform the system of immigration and asylum and the inclusion of minorities. I hope we can have a discussion on that in September around what we can do because we, as a society, will be judged by the way we treat our most vulnerable, both during the Covid-19 pandemic and afterwards.


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