campaign against racism in the north
Youth against racism takes its message to the schools
Over 200 school students turned out to hear Youth Against Racism speakers in schools across the North in February.
By Chris Henry, Youth Against Racism Co-ordinator and Socialist Youth member
As part of raising awareness of racism amongst young people, Youth Against Racism is visiting many schools around Northern Ireland. Some of the fascist groups who are attempting to build in Northern Ireland are consciously targeting young people. Racism is an important issue for young people. It was reported a few years ago that racist assaults on children soared from 8.5% of total attacks in 1996 to more than 16% in 1999.
At the school meetings, we explain that ethnic minorities are scapegoated by the Blair Government for problems in society. Blair is busy attacking public services all the time, but he then blames refugees for the run down of the National Health Service. The reality is, was it not for immigrant workers the NHS would fall apart immediately.
The racist treatment of refugees by the government allows racist groups and far-right parties like the British National Party and White Nationalist Party to whip up racism and orchestrate attacks on ethnic minorities. These nazi parties use the racist talk of Home Secretary David Blunkett that asylum seekers are coming to Britain and Northern Ireland to 'scrounge off taxpayers'. But they don't mention that the Government refuses asylum-seekers permission to work or that they are expected to live on £37.77 a week - 30% below the poverty line.
Because Youth Against Racism addresses the root causes of racism by attacking the policies of the government and explaining how poverty creates racism, students have responded enthusiastically so far to our campaign.
A crowd of 50 people turned up at Strangford Integrated College in North Down to hear a speaker from Youth Against Racism. Students told us how they were surprised to hear the facts about how badly asylum-seekers and immigrants are treated by the Government. One student said "The news on TV and the newspapers never tell you about the real reasons why refugees leave their countries. People fleeing civil wars and dictatorship and poverty should have a right to asylum."
Because of the interest in the meeting, Youth Against Racism will be returning to Strangford to speak to a group of 180 students.
Over 150 students attended another meeting at Rathmore Grammar in Belfast. At the end of the meeting, leaflets were grabbed off us so students could circulate them themselves, and four joined the campaign on the spot. Many more schools have been in touch with the campaign looking for speakers to visit.
Youth Against Racism looks set to grow throughout the North in the coming months and aims to establish campaigns in local areas to stamp out racism and kick fascists out of Northern Ireland.