Millions from around the world are forced to flee their own countries as a result of wars and conflict, human rights abuses and political repression as well as poverty and starvation. Global warming will increase the numbers of people unable to sustain themselves where they live. Some seek political asylum, others economic and physical survival.
People Before Profit rejects the notion that migrants and asylum seekers are a burden on society, or that Ireland is full up and cannot take any more people. The great majority of those who seek refuge do so in other poor countries near their own. The rich countries, including Ireland, are well placed to protect some of the world’s most oppressed and vulnerable people. Such people make a major contribution to their host countries providing they are allowed to work and are free from discrimination.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, sections of the media and even some on the left have claimed migrants are to blame for job losses, the poor state of housing and health services and are just here to “sponge off our system.” Furthermore they are calling for all Muslims to be monitored due to a “security” threat.
It is ruthless employers who are firing workers and replacing them with cheaper labour. Migrants are just as much victims as Irish workers losing their jobs. They are being paid terrible wages and suffering horrible conditions to be used by businesses to worsen all our conditions.
Busting the Racist Myths About Migrant Workers
“In times of recession politicians and the media are always on the look out for scapegoats to blame for the unemployment and hardship they inflict on people. One of their main targets is immigrants and foreigners and this can lead to a rise in racism. This fact sheet is designed to help counter some of the myths they spread. All People Before Profit candidates, canvassers and supporters may find it useful in the election campaign,” Brid Smith, People Before Profit candidate for Europe.
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 1820s before the famine it had just over 8 million. The population density of Ireland is only 65 people per sq. km compared to 260 per sq. km in the UK (four times as dense as us), 102 in France and 493 in the Netherlands.
MYTH: Ireland is being “flooded” with immigrants.
REALITY: Immigrants make up only 14% of the population. From a very low base, immigration rose substantially during the Celtic Tiger reaching a peak of 150.000 a year in 2007. Since then it has fallen to about 55,000 a year.
MYTH: Immigrants are taking Irish jobs.
REALITY: Immigration is not the cause of the high level of unemployment. It was the financial crisis of 2008 and the recession that caused the huge rise in joblessness. It was bankers, not immigrants that took our jobs. In the 1990s and early 2000s during the boom immigration was high but unemployment was low. In the 1930s and 1980s, when there were very few immigrants, there was even higher unemployment than there is unemployment was low. In the 1930s and 1980s, when there were very few immigrants, there was even higher unemployment than there is now. Then as now it was caused by the recession not immigrants. Then, as now, it was caused by the recession not by immigrants.
Once a group is stigmatised and regarded as not having any right to work they can always be blamed for unemployment. But it makes no more sense to blame immigrants or non-whites than it does to say women are taking men’s jobs or brunettes are taking the jobs of blond people.
MYTH: Immigrants are all on welfare.
REALITY: Over 80% of immigrants of working age are in work. The reason most immigrants came to this country was to get work and make a better life for themselves – the same reason generations of young Irish have emigrated. When job opportunities declined after the crash immigration went down too.
Yes, many immigrants are unemployed but that is because they have been hit by the recession like everybody else. In fact, because of discrimination, unemployment has increased faster among immigrants, rising to 18%, than among Irish nationals where it is 14%
MYTH: Immigrants are a drain on the nations’ resources and put the economy under stress.
REALITY: The age demographic of immigrants is lower than that of Irish nationals, precisely because it tends to be younger people who migrate. As a result more immigrants are of working age. Also the average level of educational qualifications is higher among non-Irish than it is among Irish nationals – over 46% have 3rd Level qualifications, compared to 32% of Irish. Among Asians the figure rises to 72%.Consequently immigrants contribute more to the economy than they take out of it, especially in the HSE, which could hardly run without them.
MYTH: We should look after our own. Things would better if everyone stayed in their own country.
REALITY: What is stopping us looking after our own is the bank bailout and the massive debt the Irish people have been saddled with because the government puts the interests of its rich cronies before the interests of the people.
Everyone staying in their own country wouldn’t just mean “foreigners” being kicked out of Ireland, it would also mean about 30 million Irish being forced to return from around the world. There has NEVER been a time when everyone stayed in one place and if they had the world as we know it would not exist. There would be no modern America, north or south, for a start. And all modern humans came out from Africa about 150,000 years ago.
MYTH: But then there are asylum seekers who are really “economic migrants” taking advantage of benefits and welfare.
REALITY: Most asylum seekers have fled extremely dangerous, life threatening and inhumane situations. There is nothing wrong with being an economic migrant – it’s what millions of Irish have been for decades – but if that’s what asylum seekers are trying to do they are barking up the wrong tree. Asylum seekers in Ireland are not allowed to work, receive only €19.10 a week, and are forced to live in grim conditions in accommodation centres and only 950 people applied for asylum in Ireland last year.
MYTH: Immigrants are taking over this country and Irish culture is being side-lined.
REALITY: This is scaremongering. Immigrants are NOT taking over. How can 14% rule 85% when they have neither wealth, nor guns, nor police. The median income of non-Irish households is about €5000 a year less than that of Irish nationals. The presence of immigrants from many different countries enriches and broadens Irish culture rather than diminishing it, just as Irish immigrants enriched the culture of America, Britain and Australia.
MYTH: The Irish people are being taken advantage of by foreigners.
REALITY: The Irish people are certainly being taken advantage of – by bankers, bondholders, multinational corporations who won’t pay their taxes (like Starbucks and Facebook), crooked politicians and the super-rich, like Denis O’Brien, who are getting richer while ordinary people are suffering. Some of these are foreign, some are Irish, but it is not the ordinary immigrants who are doing this.
The real divide in society is between rich and poor, bosses and workers, not ordinary people of different countries. Blaming “the foreigners” just lets the real crooks and exploiters off the hook and divides us among ourselves. We should unite against the 1% super-rich who are the real cause of our problems.
People Before Profit stands for:
- Proper wages and conditions and the right to unionisation for migrant and Irish workers;
- The right to family re-unification for migrant workers;
- Ending to the slave-bondage work visa system where migrant workers are tied to the employer;
- Defending the rights of refugees to political asylum; oppose legislation designed to further undermine it;
- Ending the criminalisation of asylum seekers and Islamophobia towards Muslims. The security threat to Ireland would more realistically be ended if we stopped supporting the US through the use of Shannon airport and took a more proactive role in supporting Palestinians, Iraqis and other occupied peoples instead of criminalizing and alienating Muslims here in the West;
- Reinstating the right of asylum seekers to seek employment; an amnesty for all “illegal workers;”
- Ending the White List of “safe” countries and end deportations. Give asylum seekers and refugees the right to food and shelter, plus access to education, health and social services.
There is enough wealth in this country to provide housing, jobs and a decent quality of life for everyone here, local Irish and the “new” Irish (migrants and asylum seekers). But those running the country at the moment don’t want a country for the people . They just want it to be a paradise for big business to make profits.
End Discrimination Against Travellers
- There are approximately 25,000 Travellers in Ireland. This constitutes less than 1% of the total population. In view of this, providing well serviced accommodation for all Traveller families is not an unrealistic aim;
- However, in 2004, 601 families are living in unauthorised sites; 549 are sharing accommodation in overcrowded conditions and 328 families are living in temporary accommodation;
- Travellers can now expect a life expectancy comparable to that of the settled community in the 1950s;
- Where Travellers are accommodated in proper serviced halting sites or group housing schemes, opposition to Travellers living in the area greatly diminishes or evaporates. Also where halting sites are well serviced they have little or no negative impact on the residential property market;
- Traveller specific accommodation includes, serviced halting sites, group housing schemes and transient sites. The Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 places a statutory obligation on Local Authorities to meet the accommodation needs of Travellers. They are required to implement an accommodation programme that would include this range of accommodation provision as well as standard local authority housing for Travellers for whom this is their preferred option;
- In 1995, the report of the Task Force on the Travelling Community recommended that 3,100 units of Traveller specific accommodation be provided by the year 2000. By the end of 2004 only 98 units of this accommodation have been provided;
- The number of Traveller families awaiting permanent accommodation at the end of 2004 was in excess of 3,500. The additional number of Traveller families accommodated in 2004 was 231. This rate of accommodation provision will not even keep pace with the projected 6% annual increase in Traveller population.