International Day against Racism provides a timely annual opportunity to review progress and assess challenges towards the elimination of this pervasive oppression which continues to blight the lives of women men and children globally.

Traveller ethnicity

In Ireland over the past year progress was visible in the recognition of Travellers as a minority ethnic group, a major symbolic step forward announced by the Taoiseach and supported by all parties in the Dail, an announcement which Travellers, Traveller organisations, and many who support them have been calling for over many years.

Acknowledging the right of Travellers to be named as a minority ethnic group brings respect as well as recognition. These now urgently need to be reflected in stepped up commitments by the state to address, in full engagement with Travellers, the persisting rights gaps in education, accommodation, employment and other walks of life they endure.

More joy and jubilation at Dáil Eireann ©Photo by Derek Speirs

More joy and jubilation at Dáil Eireann ©Photo by Derek Speirs

National Strategy Against Racism

The launch of the government’s Migration Integration Strategy is also welcome but it needs a corresponding national strategy to address racism if its provisions, particularly those relating to the promotion of interculturalism and inclusion of all who are part of Ireland now are to bring progress. Creating a space where we can live together in equality as well as harmony require naming and addressing the big barriers to this most notably racism.

Much work remains to be done however not least in fulfilment of the recommendations of the McMahon report on provisions for asylum seekers and in meeting the targeted number of refugees the government has agreed on our behalf to take from war torn regions.

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Migration and EU Policy

The global theme of ‘Racial Profiling and Incitement to Hatred including in the context of migration’ has been set for March 21st this year.  These are issues at home and issues which need to be reflected in Ireland’s global and regional engagements, especially at this time when the dominant public discourse on migration relies increasingly on myths and prejudice.

The UN compacts on migrants and refugees currently being developed must be grounded in, and based on, international human rights provisions and we, Irish government and Irish society need  play our part in ensuring that this is the case.

This concern needs to be urgently reflected also in the role we play in EU policy making and critique especially with regard to the human rights of these refugee and migrant women children and men which must be protected whatever their status.

Photo by Eurodiaconia. Copyright ECCB.

Photo by Eurodiaconia. Copyright ECCB.

Racial discrimination remains, as the work of CERD also indicates, an insidious global phenomenon. We can and have made progress, and can in spite of the current challenges continue to do so if we invoke a little of the courage of those who struggled against the apartheid regime in South Africa had and in whose memory this day is named.

Anastasia Crickley

Anastasia Crickley
Anastasia Crickley

Chairperson UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Vice-President International Association for Community Development
Department of Applied Social Studies, Maynooth University, Ireland