NCCRI newsletter, August 2001
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Racism on the Internet
The National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) established a monitoring system for racist incidents in June 2001 (www.nccri.com). Since this system was established, three racist websites with a specific focus on Ireland have been drawn to our attention, purporting to represent the Irish National Front, the Irish Fascist Party and the NSRUS (National Socialists R Us).
The emergence of such sites is a new and disturbing development in Ireland, even if only a small number of people are involved in their publication.
The emergence and growth of racist sites
There has been a significant growth in racist websites at a global level in recent years. According to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, based in Vienna, there was just one explicitly racist website in 1995, but by 1999 this figure had risen to over 2100.
While much of the content of these sites is patently absurd and bizarre, and they constitute a very small proportion of the number of websites on the internet, there are a number of concerns arising out of their existence and proliferation, including:
What was proscribed and liable to prosecution in the past is now accessible
on the Internet. Many of these websites demonstrate a knowledge and contempt for
the relevant legislation in individual countries. For example, one of the
sites reported to the NCCRI draws attention to the Incitement to Hatred Act
(1989) and the Public Order Act (1996).
Tackling Racism on the Internet
Tackling racism on the Internet may be difficult but not insurmountable. Laws, commercial rules and guidelines apply to the Internet and many States lay down criteria making its legislation applicable to on-line activity or content.
The recent successful action taken by the French government in respect of Nazi memorabilia being sold on an American internet provider with a French subsidiary demonstrates that there may be further potential for national governments in tackling racism on the internet through legal action.1
The Irish Government are currently revising the Incitement to Hatred Act (1989) and, in its forthcoming submission, the NCCRI will be advising on the specific inclusion of the internet within the terms of the revised legislation. Irish service providers and the Irish domain registration company may have an important role in developing and promoting anti racism policies and codes of conduct.
One of the 'Irish' racist websites is hosted by a Swedish Internet
company. This company has a stated policy not to host racist websites.
The NCCRI has contacted the company to draw attention to the content of the
site and to urge that it be deleted as soon as possible.
The World Conference against Racism
The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) will take place in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September 2001.
The WCAR will focus on action-oriented and practical steps to eradicate racism, including measures of prevention, education and protection and the provision of effective remedies. The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that 'it will be a unique and important opportunity to create a new world vision for the fight against racism in the 21st century'.
There are still some issues to be resolved by the conference organisers if the conference is to prove a success. These include the issue of reparations for past injustices related to the slave trade and a proposal from some participating members that seek to equate Zionism with racism. The successful resolution of these issues may influence the participation of some countries, most notably the United States.
The World Conference against Racism will focus on action-oriented and practical steps to eradicate racism, including measures of prevention, education and protection and the provision of effective remedies.
The objectives of the conference will be to:
Feedback Seminar in Ireland
The NCCRI will be hosting a seminar in Ireland on the outcomes from the World Conference against Racism, which will take place on Friday September 28th in the Russell Court Hotel, Dublin.
The Review of Immigration and Residence Policy
The NCCRI welcomes the decision by John O Donoghue, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to revise and update immigration legislation in Ireland. The following is a summary of some of the issues identified in a recent NCCRI submission to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
Equality and Non-Discrimination
Immigration and residence legislation should be 'proofed' to ensure that it is non-discriminatory across the range of grounds identified in the Equality Legislation, in particular, on the grounds of 'race' including colour, ethnic origin and nationality. The specific needs of women migrants should also be taken into account. Particular attention should be taken to proof against direct (less favourable) discrimination and indirect discrimination (where a practice or requirement is found to have the effect of excluding a protected group).
The administrative and institutional arrangements arising from the legislation, should be similarly 'proofed' in regard issues such as border controls and visa/permit requirements.
The practice of promoting/enabling immigration from 'favoured states' or regions such as applicant countries to the European Union should be treated with caution to ensure that such policies are not discriminatory in effect. Policy and practice associated with 'favoured state' practices have been found to be discriminatory in countries such as Australia and Canada.
The Market and the Rights of Migrants
It is clear that labour and skill shortages are and will be an important
factor in shaping Ireland's immigration policy in the forthcoming years, however
it should not be the sole consideration. Immigration policy should be able
to find a balance between the needs of the economy on the one hand and the
rights of migrant workers on the other. Existing protections should be
enhanced and additional safeguards introduced for temporary migrant workers and
long term residents to ensure they are not treated as economic entities, without
social and cultural rights.
The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families was adopted by General Assembly resolution 45/158 of 18 December 1990, but is not in force because it has not been ratified by a sufficient number of countries, including Ireland. Even if the Convention does not come into effect, it includes a number of important concepts that could be considered and incorporated within the reform of Irish legislation. These are as follows:
Reducing the level of Ministerial/ Departmental discretion
There is considerable discretion in the present legislation and arrangements related to immigration. Some discretion may be usefully retained for exceptional cases, but in general the overall level should be reduced in the interest of transparency and good practice.
The Need for an Integrated and Interdepartmental Approach to
Good practice inside and outside the EU
Immigration and residence policy should draw on the experience of countries such as Canada and Australia as well as EU member states. This is of particular importance as many EU states are still operating out of a 'zero immigration' approach and as such the extent of good practice may be more limited than other countries.
Harmonisation of Policies at EU level
Ireland should be seeking to play an active role in the harmonisation of policy within the European Union arising out of Title IV of the Amsterdam Treaty and the conclusions of the Tampere Council, even though Ireland and Britain have an opt-out right. Harmonisation will likely result in a range of important policies and -standards on issues such a family reunification, employment, social protection, housing, education and training. Harmonisation should be approached with caution for example in the consideration of Ireland's participation in the Schengen Acquis (see page 7).
Establishing mechanisms to discuss issues on an on going basis
The NCCRI welcomes the publication of the 'Public Consultation on Immigration Policy' and advocates further opportunities for public consultation and debate at the various stages of the legislative process.
Long Term Residents and Temporary Residents
As acknowledged in the consultation document, much of the existing policy towards long term residents, including how a long term resident is defined, is based on administrative practice rather than policy and legislation. The following are some of the issues that could be considered as part of the new legislation.
Defining long term resident status
The following are proposed as possible rules for acquisition of long-term resident status:
Allowances should be made for maternity absences, periods of involuntary unemployment and long-term illness when assessing whether someone qualifies for long term resident status.
Access to employment and social security
A long term resident should have access to employment and social security on the same basis as any EU national would have in Ireland. The issue of the recognition of the qualifications of third country nationals should be considered more proactively and the offer of citizenship should be considered after a period of time.
Freedom of Movement
Third country nationals legally resident in EU Member States, even those who have lived there for many years, are not accorded freedom of movement within the European Union. The NESF noted 'this is an obvious source of rigidity within the EU labour market. This issue will be considered under Title VI of the Treaty and it merits a positive approach from Ireland'.
Protection from expulsion
Long-term residents should be protected from expulsion except on very exceptional grounds such as public/national security. This is particularly important in times of economic recession when there may be unreasonable calls for the expulsion of third country nationals.
Careful consideration should also be given to the equity and impact of expelling long- term residents or their dependents for a criminal act after a sentence has been served as this could be considered a further and additional punishment for a crime.
Defining Temporary Resident Status
Temporary resident status, other than those with the right to study, is largely enshrined in the work permit and work visa schemes. Many of the people who are now temporary residents may in time become long-term residents.
Rights of Temporary Migrant Workers
The NCCRI has identified a number of recommendations in its previous submission on the rights of migrant workers including:
The right to family life is enshrined in the a number of international instruments that Ireland has ratified, including the ECHR, the UDHR and the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights. Family reunion is not only a fundamental human right but is an important aspect of the integration process.
The legislation and rules relating to family reunion must be based on security and equality. At present there are considerable anomalies in the system in Ireland, for example between the rights of workers with work permits and those with work visas.
There is also considerable discretion within the system on who is entitled to family reunion, which inevitably raises questions of transparency, no matter how fair the judgement is on a particular case. A level of discretion should be retained within the system for exceptional cases, but in general the rules concerning the right to family reunion should be revised and placed on a statutory basis.
Rather than allocating different family reunion rights to different visa/permit categories, which might discriminate against people on a socio economic/professional basis, it may be easier to define the right by stating who should not be entitled to family reunion, rather than who should be.
The two categories of people who should not be entitled to family reunion could be:
Consideration should also be given to extend the right of family reunion to include partners (cohabitees).
The Schengen Acquis
The Schengen Acquis provides for an area of free movement and for common immigration and visa procedures among participating states. The United Kingdom has opted out of the Schengen Acquis because of security concerns. Ireland has opted out to maintain the Common Travel Area.
There are a number of problems with the present Schengen Acquis, which justifies a cautious approach by Ireland from a human rights perspective:
In short, a number of safeguards and reforms to the Schengen Acquis and Protocol are necessary before Ireland should seek to join. If such reforms took place there would be a much stronger case for Ireland's participation.
Ensuring non-discrimination in border controls
There is need to monitor the administrative arrangements put in place at border controls to ensure they are non discriminatory. Some of the measures, both legislative and non legislative, that could be put in place could be:
Administrative and Institutional Arrangements
The NCCRI welcomes the proposal to establish an Immigration
Agency. The present system is fragmented and under-resourced. Considerable delays
are being experienced and the present system is frustrating for both applicants
and staff. The following should be some of the issues that should be considered
as part of the process of establishing the agency:
Minister Launches NCCRI's progress report
A three-year progress report of the work of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) has been launched by Mr John O Donoghue TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
The report highlights the work of the NCCRI and other policy initiatives to address racism, not to engender a sense of complacency, but to identify progress that has been made and that can be built upon over the next few years.
A key feature of the NCCRI strategy has been to work at national level in partnership with government departments, statutory agencies and the social partners, including the voluntary and community sector, in particular a wide range of NGOs concerned to address racism. This partnership approach is reflected in both the structure of the NCCRI where there is broad representation on the Board, its sub committees and through the participation of people in the numerous roundtables, seminars and conferences organised by the NCCRI since it was established.
The work of the NCCRI, charted in the progress report, can be summarised as follows:
An Election Protocol has been signed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, Progressive Democrats, Sinn Fein, the Green Party and the Socialist Party, which covers the conduct of political parties and their candidates at election time. The Protocol was also formally launched at the same time as the progress report.
Advice, Training and Technical assistance
The NCCRI provides advice and technical assistance to governmental bodies to address racism. The NCCRI has also provided anti-racism awareness training to over thirty statutory and other bodies, including government departments, health boards, media organisations and NGOs.
The NCCRI has been active in raising awareness about racism, including the publication of an education pack that has been circulated to all schools in Ireland, North and South, in cooperation with the Equality Commission in Northern Ireland. The NCCRI drew up the plan for the forthcoming £4.5 million national anti racism public awareness programme.
Refugees and Asylum Seekers
The NCCRI has established a community development Unit to support the development of NGOs working with refugees and asylum seekers.
Racist Crime and Incidents
The NCCRI has provided technical advice to the Garda Racial and Intercultural Unit on issues such as the reporting racist crimes and developing a system of reporting racist incidents. The NCCRI has also advocated and is participating in the Review of Incitement to Hatred Act (1989).
The NCCRI has worked closely with the social partners to identify and seek to improve the rights of migrant workers in Ireland, including seeking to improve and remove the anomalies in the work permit system.
European and UN level
The NCCRI in partnership with the Equality Authority has been designated the national focal point to address racism in Ireland. This initiative will involve close cooperation with other EU member states on transnational initiatives. The NCCRI has been active in the national preparations for the forthcoming World Conference on Racism in South Africa.
Copies of the Progress Report 1998-2001 are available from the NCCRI.