20th June 2016 is the European Day of Action to Respect the Rights of Refugees. The Action Day calls for a wide and systematic reaction and condemnation of Hate Speech targeting Refugees. It also stands in solidarity with refugees, asylum-seekers and all those working to make the right to asylum a reality. Debating how to best support and integrate refugees and respond to concerns of host communities following the refugee crisis has to be done without hate speech and with respect of the dignity and human rights of refugees and asylum seekers.
What Does "Refugee" mean?
It is important to understand the ways in which people are categorised when seeking asylum, as those with refugee status have full access to public services that fall in the social policy spectrum, whereas asylum seekers are more restricted in their access to services (Moran, 1999). There are four different categories of refugees; Programme Refugee, Asylum Seeker, Convention Refugee and Leave to Remain (Moran, 1999).
As defined by the Geneva Convention;
“… [A refugee is any person] who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence, is unable, or owing to such fear, unwilling to return to it.”
(Article 1 of the Geneva Convention, 1951, Relating to the Status of Refugees, cited in Schedule 3, Refugee Act 1996:30).
An Asylum Seeker is; a person who seeks to be recognised as a refugee in accordance with the terms of the 1951 Convention (National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism).
There are also "Internally Displaced People" (IDP), and "Stateless People". A stateless person is “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”. In simple terms, this means that a stateless person does not have a nationality of any country. Some people are born stateless, but others become stateless (because of ethnicity, nationality, gender or religion). An Internally Displaced Person is someone who is forced to flee his or her home but who remains within his or her country's borders. They are often referred to as refugees, although they do not fall within the current legal definition of a refugee.
Debunking the Myths of the "Refugee Crises":
MYTH: "Ireland is overcrowded and “full up”"
REALITY: Ireland is not densely populated. The Republic of Ireland has a population of 4.5 million (Plus 1.5 million in the North) In the 1820’s before the famine it had 8 million. The population density of Ireland is 65 people per sq km compared to 260 per sq km in the UK.
MYTH: "Refugees / boat people are illegal immigrants."
REALITY: This is untrue. The UN Refugee Convention (to which Ireland is a signatory) recognises that refugees have a lawful right to enter a country for the purposes of seeking asylum, regardless of how they arrive or whether they hold valid travel or identity documents. This is seen with refugees coming via the Mediterranean, the Aegean and Balkans, the EU countries do not offer a safe/’legal’/free passage.
MYTH: "We should look after our own first. We have enough economic problems here in Ireland."
REALITY: Researchers have emphasized that asylum seekers have a far better impact on the local economy if they are allowed to work. "What you want to do is to process them as quickly and efficiently as possible, and to integrate them as quickly and efficiently as possible" (Oxford,2014). Countries usually prevent asylum seekers from working for a few reasons, according to experts. First, advocates don’t want those seeking political asylum to be confused with people who are migrating for economic reasons, since countries tend to have higher barriers to the latter. Second, governments may fear the political consequences if asylum seekers integrate quickly and take jobs from locals.
MYTH: "We can’t take any more refugees. There are already too many asylum seekers in Ireland who are ‘economic migrants’ taking advantage of the system."
REALITY: From May 2015, there were 4,484 Asylum Seekers in Direct Provision Centres and only 1,147 new applicants.
· [endif]-->Ireland ranked 20th among EU and other non-EU countries for receiving asylum applications.
· [endif]-->However, it is 55th in the world for granting asylum applications between 2012-2014 (behind the U.S.A., Germany, Turkey, Malaysia, Uganda, France, Rwanda, U.K., Canada and Sudan).
Direct Provision is “The accommodation provided to persons without means who are seeking asylum and permission to remain in Ireland, whereby they receive shelter and full board in accommodation provided by the State. People in direct provision receive a weekly allowance of 19.10 per adult and 9.60 per child” (FLAC, 2010;i). (The 9.60 allowance has recently been raised to €15.60)
The Department of Justice in a 1996 information leaflet, outlined the state’s policy in relation to asylum seekers, as while their claim is being processed, it is “inappropriate for the state to give aid to non-nationals to assist integration into the state” (Department of Justice, 1996;06).
Ireland & Refugee Application Statistics from 2012:
The Irish government grants refugee status at a strikingly low rate for a developed, EU member state, rejecting more applications than it accepts, and deferring decisions in most cases (World Bank,2015). Of the 22,194 applications counted by UNHCR in Ireland, since 2012:
Ø [endif]-->677 (3%) were granted and 4,551 (21%) were rejected
Ø [endif]-->The remainder were left pending for another year, or closed, without either recognition or rejection. Overall, Ireland ranks 128th (of 183 countries) in terms of the likelihood of refugee status being granted in a given year.
UNHCR (2014) "Asylum Trends 2014: Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries" [accessed at http://www.unhcr.org/551128679.html]
UNHCR (2015) "Mid-Year Trends 2015" [accessed at http://www.unhcr.org/56701b969.html]
World Bank (2015) "Refugee population by country or territory of asylum" [accessed at http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SM.POP.REFG/countries/1W?display=def...
O’ Connor, C. (2003) “Direct Discrimination? An analysis of the Direct Provision scheme in Ireland”, Free Legal Advice Centres, Dublin: Printwell Cooperative.