NCCRI Progress Report 1998-2000: Section 2
The work of the NCCRI is developed within the context of increasing cultural diversity in Ireland and significant policy developments at national and European level. This section is divided as follows:
Cultural diversity in Ireland
Until recent times the recognition of cultural diversity and the need to address racism have not been key priorities in shaping public policy. The Traveller community, an indigenous Irish minority ethnic group, has an estimated 22,000 people in the South and 1,300 in the North. The Chinese community numbers 8,000 in the North. The North and South both have long established Jewish communities and growing Islamic and Asian communities. In the South there are now refugees and asylum seekers from over 100 countries, including Vietnam, Bosnia, Kosovo, Romania, Nigeria, Algeria, Congo, Sudan, Somalia and from ethnic groups that transcend national boundaries such as the Roma and the Kurds.
In both the North and South, there are now more visible populations of Black Irish and other EU and non-EU citizens who are living in Ireland, who experience racism on the basis of skin colour and ethnic origin.
A further factor contributing to increased awareness about cultural diversity in Ireland is increased inward migration. In response to rapid economic growth in Ireland, an increasing number of migrant workers are coming to Ireland to meet skills and labour shortages. Over 20,000 work permits and visas issued in Ireland in 2000, twice the number of people who applied for asylum.
The government has estimated that the economy will need many thousands of migrant workers over the next few years if economic growth is to be sustained. Many of these will be returning Irish emigrants and others will drawn from non EU countries in eastern Europe, the far east and from India and Pakistan.
Forms of Racism in Ireland
The NCCRI has identified a number of different forms of racism in the Irish context, including:
Main developments in policy at national level
A wide range of policies and approaches to address racism are beginning to emerge at national, EU and international levels. This section outlines the main developments in recent policy that have the potential to impact on racism.
The main developments to address racism in Ireland include:
Recent EU and international developments.
The following are some of the key development at EU and international level, which have the potential to impact on racism.
The Role of Civil Society in Addressing Racism
It is also clear from this report that civil society, in particular the community and voluntary sector and other social partner organisations, have contributed significantly to the emergence of strategies to address racism at European and national level.
The leadership from civil society in addressing racism has been a consistent feature of policy development across Europe and within Ireland. The role of NGO’s has also been recognised at a global level and is a key feature of the World Conference on Racism. The role of NGO’s can include:
There is increased recognition of cultural diversity in Ireland. This has in part stemmed from recognition of the rights of existing minority ethnic groups, including Travellers, the increase in the numbers of people seeking asylum and more recently the increase in the numbers of migrant workers who are being encouraged to come to Ireland to meet skill and labour shortages.
This section has outlined a wide range of policies being developed at national and European level to address racism. The purpose of this review has not been to engender a sense of complacency, but to identify a bedrock of policies that can be built upon and enhanced in the coming months and years.
Policies to address racism cannot be seen in isolation to other policy developments that have the potential to impact on minority ethnic groups. Many of these policies will be complementary, particularly if they seek to acknowledge the needs of minority ethnic groups and build in an anti racism and intercultural dimension.
However there may also be tension between different public policy priorities in relation to contentious issues such as refugee and asylum policy and immigration policy. Such related policy areas need to be proofed to ensure that they are consistent with overall policy to address racism and the promotion of human rights and equality which are the cornerstones of an inclusive and intercultural society.