Hard Times

The world has changed. Nothing is as it was. There is war in Europe, we feel unsafe, social media is creating divisions that would otherwise have been just differences of opinion but now create serious and sometimes dangerous divides. I am finding it hard to make sense of everything and I also feel I have to stay quiet, because these days you never know who you may upset. But I have to get rid of some frustrations and I will do it here on my own, hopefully still safe, outlet.

Here are a few things that have been bugging me over the last year and more so over the past couple of weeks.

  1. The war in Ukraine and the latent racism that has become apparent. We are all very hurt and concerned by the war in Ukraine, whatever someone could say in defence of Russia, about NATO etc., the fact remains that Ukraine has been invaded, its people have been displaced, injured or killed and traumatised and forced to run. It is horrible to say the least. Although it is good to see the response of European citizens and it is good to see the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive, it does leave a few questions unanswered.

One question is why is it that the TPD has been activated for the Ukrainian people, giving them immediate protection, the right to work and all other rights Europeans have in their respective countries, but not for people from other countries where wars are waging and where violence is an every-day occurrence?

You may say those countries are not on the European continent, but that seems not valid to me, as we in Europe have considered these countries like ours when it suited us.

Furthermore, violence is violence, trauma is trauma wherever it happens. Other people who fled from violence and wars have to apply for asylum, and here in Ireland, it can take years for them to be recognised as refugees. Wouldn’t it make sense to automatically give them protection and refugee status when arriving from war-torn countries, or dictatorships? I have a friend who had to leave his country together with 500,000 other refugees because of the violence, he waited 4 years to get his refugee status, languishing in direct provision, and being traumatised by that, after the trauma of the violence in his country.

How about the DRC, Yemen, Ethiopia, Afghanistan? Millions of people have been displaced, where is the help? Why can’t we help them better? Most of them don’t come all the way to Europe, but some do, because they can and prefer not to live in UNHCR tents.

And the big question about Palestine. Amnesty International called Israel’s treatment of Palestine a cruel system of apartheid and a crime against humanity. Yet, where is the reaction of the world?

Ziad-El-Shuraf Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Then there were the reports on black people not being let over the border, or recently black people being taken off the train in Germany.

All of the above is blatant racism. Journalists mentioning ‘they look just like us’. What on earth is happening? Actually, it is quite clear. The racist underbelly of Europe is what is being shown now.

2. I was very honoured to be nominated for the Person of the Year Award, and went to the gala lunch. I invited my friends from direct provision and one of our volunteers.

What surprised me was that in the whole event, we were the only table with some diversity showing. Shouldn’t we reflect the current Cork or Ireland as it is now? In every event, in the media, in every company? 13% of people in Cork are Non-Irish. The only none-white people at this event seemed to be the ones at my table and some waiters… , I am not sure if there were any Travellers present. According to the 2016 census, 1 in every 91 people in Cork County and 1 in 77 people in Cork City identifies as black or black Irish, and 1 in 93 people in Cork County and 1 in 36 people in Cork City identifies as Asian or Asian Irish. 1 in 10 people in Cork County and 1 in 9 people in Cork City identifies as ‘other white’ so non-Irish, that is a significant number.

I reflected on it and was happy to see the Tweet from Amanullah Desondy, a renowned lecturer in UCC.

It is OK to talk about inclusion and diversity, but talking alone is not going to solve anything, and events that reach the news and celebrate a city, should reflect the population of that city. Irish people of colour and ‘other whites’ are here to stay. Please make sure that is reflected. We want migrants to get involved in the local community, which is great, but you need to make them feel like they are welcome to get involved too.

3. Housing for migrants

The housing crisis is affecting migrants even more than other people. Many people who have received their status are still in Direct Provision over a year later, because they cannot find a home. I have been through it as well, it took me 6 months to find something decent, but very often for the migrants I talk to, and some of them are people with very high-paying jobs, it is impossible.

The house hunt goes as far as the visit if the people ask their friends with Irish accents to call the agents, but once the visit takes place, there is always someone else who gets the house, or the house ‘has been taken off the market’.

What can be done to stop this? How about landlords not accepting HAP? Is that even legal? I don’t think so. There must be some well-meaning landlords around. I am thinking about starting a Facebook page ‘HAP accepting housing for refugees’, just to try and see if that would help. But it seems quite desperate out there.

I could rant some more, about mental health services and medical services, but I will leave that for another time.

Please feel free to leave a comment, but keep it civil if you have an argument to make, non-civil, and racist comments will be removed.

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