Update: O'Donoghue Steps up Deportations

Update: O'Donoghue Steps up Deportations

By Matthew Waine Socialist View, Spring 2001

OVER THE last period, the government has engaged in a cynical and secretive campaign to deport asylum seekers from the country. This, despite predictions that the economy will face severe shortages of labour in the near future. On 15 February, Joe Higgins, accompanied by members of the Socialist Party and others in the anti-deportation movement, were called to Dublin Airport to try to stop the deportation of a Nigerian asylum seeker, Blessing Ogueri. This man happened to be visiting Dublin the day of his arrest and it was only because of the colour of his skin that he was picked off the streets to face imminent deportation. Were it not for the work of anti-deportation activists, Blessing would have been deported straight away. We managed to delay the deportations for a few days so that the discrepancies surrounding Blessing's case could be challenged. At the same time we were able to successfully challenge deportation orders against several other asylum seekers. Unfortunately despite our best efforts the deportation of Blessing Ogueri went ahead. This could well prove to be a death sentence for a man who had witnessed a massacre of Christians in the Hausa North of Nigeria and who - as a Christian preacher - had himself been threatened.

The state has seriously streamlined the deportations procedure so that a person is arrested, brought to court and expelled in the shortest possible period of time, without arousing the suspicion of other asylum seekers or refugee support groups. In fact by the time we hear of an arrest, it is often too late. Blessing's was one of the first cases we heard about this year. However the Irish Times reported that the government has already deported 26 people since the start of January.

The hypocrisy of this government has never been so blatant. We have one minister jetting around the world, begging workers to come to Ireland to work, while another minister actively endorses the forced deportations of people more than willing to work, people who face appalling of poverty and sometimes the threat of imprisonment or even death when deported.

This fact alone proves the racist nature of state policy. This government has said it will issue 285,000 work visas for immigrant workers, needed for the implementation of the National Plan. Why is it that none of the asylum seekers or refugees in Ireland at the moment can even apply for these work visas? A key part of the government's approach bas been the utterly false distinction between "bogus" asylum seekers who are coming to Ireland for economic reasons and the "genuine" cases of those fleeing persecution. As the overwhelming rate of rejection of applications makes clear, the government believes almost all asylum seekers are "bogus".

We believe ordinary people fleeing economic disasters caused by neo-liberal policies have as much right to seek asylum as political dissidents. This was, after all, the situation which faced hundreds of thousands of Irish people in the past. But we also need to nail the lie that only a handful of those who managed to get here have any legitimate fear for their physical safety if they are deported.

Recall the way that the Kosovars were welcomed here with open arms two years ago. This was at least partly because we were reminded every day of the situation there by the media. But the suffering in a country like Nigeria - from which a large proportion of asylum seekers in Ireland come - receives far less attention.

Although the brutal military dictatorship in Nigeria has been replaced by a civilian government, repression and even murder of political dissidents continues. There has also been escalating ethnic tension which has led to massacres like that which Blessing witnessed.

On top of that, the majority of the Nigerian population lives in dire poverty while companies like Shell are allowed to run off with huge profits from the country's massive oil resources in return for the arms they provide the corrupt regime. Average incomes have fallen by 75% since the 1980s. This is the reality of life for tells of millions of Nigerians and this is the nature of the regime which the Irish government colludes with to deport people.

Blessing Ogueri's case makes clear that the state's deportations machine will not be stopped by a handful of activists running around Dublin Airport. A serious discussion needs to be urgently had among the genuine anti-deportation activists about the best way to respond to the government's strategy.

The Socialist Party calls for asylum seekers to be given the right to work and for an immediate end to deportations. We are opposed to all racist immigration controls. Nevertheless, as a first step there should be a serious campaign for an amnesty for all asylum seekers in Ireland. This campaign could bring together a wide range of political forces and the labour movement. If victorious, it would deal a powerful blow to state racism.

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