UN to look at State’s human rights record
Resource type: News
The Irish Times | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]
By JAMIE SMYTH, Social Affairs Correspondent
THE UNITED Nations has said it will investigate the Government’s failure to establish clear immigration rules and the impact of steep cuts to the public funding of State bodies protecting human rights.
At a two-day hearing due to start tomorrow in Geneva, the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination will also question senior Irish officials on the State’s treatment of asylum seekers, Travellers and other ethnic minorities.
The hearings are part of the committee’s mandate to ensure governments meet their commitments under an International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Ireland ratified the convention in 2000 and submits reports to the UN every few years on measures it is taking to combat racism. The reports are scrutinised by the committee in hearings with government officials and experts working for NGOs and State bodies.
On Wednesday, the Irish Human Rights Commission will brief the committee on its concerns about the treatment of ethnic minorities in the Republic.
The committee has sent a list of themes it wants to discuss with 12 government officials, who will attend the hearing. The list highlights a lack of laws “proscribing racial profiling by the police” and the need to ensure pupils have a choice to attend non-denominational schools as issues.
It says there is a “lack of legislative clarity” in Ireland with regard to immigration rules. The grounds for refusal to enter the country are not clear and there is no review process to challenge immigration decisions, according to the list.
The committee has asked for an update on the status of the long-delayed Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill.
It has asked to discuss the impact of the Government’s decision to cut the budgets of the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority by 32 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively.
It has asked the Government to outline the measures it has taken “to ensure that the budget cuts . . . do not stifle the monitoring of the implementation of the obligations of the State party.”
A coalition of NGOs, the Alliance Against Racism, has sent the committee a shadow report outlining areas where it believes the State is failing to meet its commitments under the convention.
The report says disproportionately large cuts were “an attack on the human rights infrastructure of the State”. It criticises a decision to close the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism, which was the only independent national racist incident reporting organisation.
“While no one can deny the State is in crisis, these circumstances cannot be used as an excuse to ignore, and take retrograde steps which affect groups that are already vulnerable or that face discrimination as part of their everyday lives in boom or bust,” says the alliance’s shadow report.
* The State should recognise Travellers as an ethnic group to ensure their culture is respected.
* Enact laws to allow for more severe punishment of offences that have a racist motivation
* State bodies that promote human rights and monitor racism should receive adequate funding.
* Set up an independent system for reporting racist incidents
* Process asylum seekers within six months and provide the right to work to them after this time. Review direct provision system for asylum seekers to meet concerns about resident welfare
* Stop and search of black and minority ethnic individuals on suspicion of being illegal immigrants by ordinary Garda members should not be allowed.
* Support non-and multi-denominational schooling.
* Increase political representation of Travellers and minority ethnic groups.
The National Alliance Against Racism is an Atlantic grantee.