IRISH NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION – for asylum seekers and migrant workers

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A NATIONAL day of action in support of asylum seekers and migrant workers is taking place in Ireland tomorrow, Saturday June 18.

A rally has been organised by Residents Against Racism at the General Post Office in O’Connell Street, Dublin.

Residents Against Racism said yesterday: ‘Michael McDowell’s deportation machine has got worse than ever in recent months.

‘He has sent his snatch squads into schools, attempting to drag children away from their classmates and teachers.

‘He has separated mothers from their children.

‘He has torn people away from communities they are now a part of, ignoring calls for compassion from their friends and neighbours.

‘Asylum seekers in Ireland are forced to live on only 19.10 euros a week. They are banned from working or studying.

‘People who are ready, willing and able to work are condemned by the government to compulsory unemployment and poverty.

‘His ideological obsession with deporting people makes Michael McDowell unfit to be in charge of the asylum system.

‘The system should be taken out of the hands of politicians altogether, and run by a body – such as the Human Rights Commission – committed to fair play for asylum seekers.

‘Exploitation of immigrant workers is widespread in Ireland, based largely on the current work permit system.

‘The permit is given to the employer, not the worker, which ties you to a single company with no right to change jobs.

If the boss doesn’t renew your permit, you have no legal right to stay in Ireland.

‘Recently, popular protest forced McDowell to do a U-turn, and reverse the deportation of Kunle Elukanlo, a school student from Dublin.

‘In the run-up to World Refugee Day, June 18 is a chance to show that not everyone is prepared to stand by and allow state racism to continue.

• Stop the deportations

• Give asylum seekers the right to work

• Take the asylum system out of the politicians’ hands

• Take the work permits away from the employer

‘Residents Against Racism was set up in 1998 to fight against state racism, and to oppose all manifestations of racism.

‘We have successfully campaigned in support of refugees facing deportation and other forms of harassment from the state.

‘Our supporters include Joe Costello TD, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, Joe Higgins TD, Ciarán Cuffe TD, Finian McGrath TD, Michael O’Reilly of the ATGWU, and many other individuals and groups.

‘We are not connected to any political party, and do not receive any state funding.’

In the UK this Saturday, the Refugee Council is launching a major new campaign: ‘Don’t Believe the Type’ at Glastonbury Festival’s Left Field.

The charity aims to draw attention to the state of the public debate on asylum and start a major fightback for one of the UK’s most marginalised and vilified groups.

To mark the launch of their campaign, the Refugee Council, together with the Left Field and Love Music Hate Racism, will stage a special performance from acclaimed hip-hop artist Rodney P.

The MC presents the 19:51 Glastonbury Declaration on the Right to Asylum 2005, written exclusively for the Refugee Council by award-winning author Patrick Neate.

The Declaration will be performed on the Left Field stage at 7.51pm (19:51) on Saturday June 25 to reflect the year that the United Nations Refugee Convention was signed and is supported by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR who will also be at the festival.

At the Refugee Council’s stand in the Left Field tent there will be an opportunity to stamp out some of the worst of the myths and lies written about asylum seekers and refugees and to stand up for the right to asylum in Britain.

On Saturday afternoon the Left Field stage also hosts the Refugee Council’s acclaimed stand-up comedy show ‘No Laughing Matter’, featuring top acts including Mark Steel and Shappi Korsandi.

This recently played at the Comedy Store in London to a sell-out audience.

Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said: ‘We are all fed up with the myths and lies peddled about asylum seekers and refugees, and now it’s time to fight back.

‘We need facts and figures about asylum, not scare stories. Asylum is a human right we should be proud to uphold.’

In response to news that the government is scrapping plans for accommodation centres, including one planned for Bicester, Sherlock added: ‘This is a very sensible move.

Accommodation centres of the kind that were planned for Bicester and elsewhere are totally inappropriate for the needs of asylum seekers.

‘It is much better to house asylum seekers within the community – it leads to better community relations and helps integration for those who are finally allowed to stay.

‘We are concerned about plans to increase the use of detention.

‘Depriving someone of his or her liberty is a serious step and should only be taken as a last resort and where there is clear evidence to justify it.’

Meanwhile in Canada, ‘No One is Illegal’ has organised a march from Montreal to Ottawa under the slogan ‘We Refuse to be Invisible and Silenced’ from this Saturday (June 18) to Saturday June 25, 2005.

The march assembles in Montreal at 12pm at the corner of Atwater and Ste-Catherine (metro Atwater).

From the immigrant neighbourhoods of Montreal to Parliament Hill in Ottawa we are marching in solidarity with all non-status persons in Canada, and in support of the main demands of the Solidarity Across Borders network: the regularisation of all non-status persons in Canada; an end to the deportation and detention of migrants; and the abolition of security certificates.

The No One Is Illegal March on Ottawa is organised by Solidarity Across Borders, a Montreal-area network of self-organised migrants, refugees, and immigrants, and their allies. We are marching, step-by-step, over 200km, from June 18-25, 2005. From the immigrant neighbourhoods of Montreal, to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, we refuse to be invisible and silenced.

We are marching through the lands of the Mohawk and Algonquin peoples, and publicly supporting their demands for sovereignty and self-determination.

We are marching to support our main demands:

1) the regularisation of all non-status people in Canada;

2) an end to the deportation and detention of migrants;

3) the abolition of racist security certificates.

We are marching because hundreds of thousands of people live in Canada without status. These people – our friends, co-workers, schoolmates and neighbours – make up the social, economic and cultural fabric of cities like Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. Without status, and deemed ‘illegal’, thousands of migrants are forced to live in poverty, without sufficient access to health care or education, and in great fear of being detained or deported, all the while being the most exploited in the workplace.

We are marching because there is no such thing as an ‘illegal’ human being, only unjust laws and illegitimate governments.

We march on the 10th anniversary of the ‘Bread and Roses’ March against poverty, organised by Quebec women, and the 70th anniversary of the On-to-Ottawa Trek, organised by unemployed workers during the Great Depression; we march in the tradition of those previous efforts for social and economic justice.

Our march is directly inspired by Shamim Akhtar, a Pakistani refugee claimant and active member of Solidarity Across Borders. Shamim first proposed the idea of a refugee march to Ottawa in the summer of 2003. Unfortunately, Shamim and her family (including 4 children) were deported in the summer of 2004.

We march almost one year later with Shamim very much in mind, as well as all our other friends and allies who have been removed, detained, forced underground or forced into sanctuary in the past years.

We have written hundreds of letters, collected thousands of signatures and organised dozens of demonstrations. We have successfully fought deportations and detentions, but have also seen our family members and friends permanently removed from our lives.

For every arbitrary detention, for every summary deportation, for every minute spent in jail without charge or trial, for every anxious and dehumanising day spent waiting for status – all the days, months, years that the government has stolen from us – we will take back minute by minute, with every step, on our march from Montreal to Ottawa. Join us and take back stolen time.

‘The NO ONE IS ILLEGAL March includes interactive art and theatre elements to convey our opposition to borders, and our solidarity as human beings. The bird is our guiding symbol, as we walk, young and old, with our masks, human figures, our flags, kites and banners. Birds are borderless, and their flight is the ultimate symbol of freedom and hope. Our diversity, healthy craziness and human bonding will complement the anger, sweat and tears of our struggle for dignity and justice, as we march to Ottawa.

‘A big bad puppet will join us, with other puppets and surprises too. This will be a true cultural event in which all the marchers can participate.

‘Art, theatre and culture are human rights for all to enjoy and take part in.’