A critical view of the Refugees are Welcome Rally in Dublin


No Borders No Nation banner and Homes for all Refuge for all banners at GPO Dublin for Refugees are Welcome protestThe Refugees Welcome rally saw a good crowd assembled at the Spire in Dublin.  The rally was a response where people wanted to express their solidarity with the refugees who are attempting to escape war and death.  

Thanks to the work of a few volunteers WSM had some banners to bring to the Refugees are Welcome rally and march at the Spire on Saturday the 12th of September.  The banners were important to link up certain struggles.  One linked the appalling reaction to the social housing crisis by this government with their slow reaction to the humanitarian crisis on the edges of fortress Europe, which simply stated Homes for All, Refuge for All, and another which read No Borders No Nations. 

The crowd grew steadily as Memet Uludag spoke frequently, often, and introduced each of the speakers.  For the next hour or so a number of people spoke of how bad the situation was and how inadequate the response of our present government was.  There were chants from the crowd making sure that the leaders of the EU and here in our present Government heard us say that ‘Refugees are welcome here’.   The truth is we put people into camps that we call ‘Welcome Centre’s’ and we have one of the lowest rates in Europe in terms of actually granting asylum to people.  In 2010, we let 25 people stay as approved refugees, and in 2013, our success rate was one of the lowest in Europe at 8.6% whilst the European average was closer to 25.2%. 

Now I realise that to some of the irrational racists all these figures are irrelevant, because it’s all about going with your emotions and not dealing with facts. The truth is that this is a hostile country to seek asylum in and by no stretch of the imagination do we welcome people into this country who are seeking asylum.  Tell the African shopkeeper in Cabra who had his car keyed by some young thug last week; tell my co-worker who is Nigerian (but also now an Irish Citizen) whose is now homeless with her family thanks to the bank repossessing the house that she was renting.   Tell it to any Traveller who has been born here and raise here, and they’ll tell you about how Welcome we make people feel who are different to us. 

The people gathered here in this crowd might welcome refugees but this State and the leaders in Government have consistently used asylum seekers as a means to divide and conquer the masses.  That’s why direct provision was set up, to make some people rich with government contract, and to put people into places all over the Country where they are isolated, and conspicuous.  Then the rumours can be started about people getting something for nothing and we can all descend into the madness of fighting each other whilst the boys at the top carry on business as usual. 

In fact we now have a system in Direct Provision which is recognised by the Minister Aodháin O’Riordain, New Communities, Culture and Equality in charge of it as being “regrettable” but still it carries on.  20% of the people living in direct provision have been there for over seven years.   Sure we welcome refugees.  Of course all this information and knowledge did not prevent senior labour party people showing up on the demonstration.   It’s easier to show up on a demo than it is to dismantle the structure of refugee camps which your party now presides over.

From all the speeches – that I heard on Saturday, with the exception of Memet and a Muslim Cleric and perhaps one other speaker, all of the speeches were from white Irish majority.   Brendan Ogle from the Right To Water actually got booed at one stage for bringing his talk back to that campaign one too many times.  There were many good points raised by various speakers, Bríd Smith spoke of the ease with which money flows in capital across all borders and its only people this system has issues with, Paul Murphy spoke of the need to end direct provision,  Clare Daly made the links to Irelands support of the wars that displace people in the first place through the re-fuelling in Shannon.  We were reminded of the role of Israel as arms supplier and tester of those arms on the civilian population of Palestine. 

Another speaker made mention of the fact that Jeremy Corbyn got elected leader of the (British) Labour party as a sign of people’s will for change.   I think that it is positive and it indicates that people desperately want change.  He went from being elected to addressing a similar type of rally in London welcoming refugees. This is a good change for the (British) Labour Party who campaigned in the last election around tighter immigration controls. 

Another woman told us about Department officials from the Office of Migrant Integration confiscating various items which were donated by a local group in Monasterevin as they expect that some of the refugees will be placed there.  One would wonder why public servants operating under the authority of the Department of Justice and Equality, can see that taking toys away from migrant children who have yet to get here helps with process of integration?   But from many of the speeches the story, the voice of the asylum seeker, the person trapped in the system of direct provision, the voice of the refugee, the human story was missing from all the speeches. 

After an hour we moved off and marched to the central bank.  There Colm O’Gorman, adding to the long list of white Irish speakers, from Amnesty spoke about how shameful it was that people died fleeing conflict whilst leaders and states did nothing.  All true.   

But my hopes for change reside with the people and not with new old white men in charge of political parties.  It is in the young faces in the crowd who know in their hearts that a system which allows humans to die on the shores of a land that they hope will give them a future, is wrong.  It is the fact that people know this to be the case.  It is the young people who will not wait be placated with platitudes or satisfied with putting a different old man in charge. It is in the people that rallied in Dublin, and London, in Frankfurt, in Vienna and in places all over to world who do welcome refugees in their hearts but know that this system does not. 

My hopes spring from the fact that people have come together to collect goods and send them in convoys to Calais. In a massive display of collective organising independent of this government we are witnessing people responding in real solidarity to the needs of other people.  It is interesting that all this is happening at a grassroots level and below the official system.  A system which plainly uses people like a resource and deems all resources expendable cannot be either reformed or trusted.  There is no such thing as getting the right driver for that system.  More and more people are realising this, as the raw contradictions of capitalism are exposed to detriment of us all.

Words: Dermot Freeman

Reply from rally organiser Memet Uludag

Response to the article titled "A critical view of the Refugees are Welcome Rally in Dublin" by Dermot Freeman

Just some quick points. I don't see the benefit of a long debate on this. I trust you will publish my response under the original article in the interest of clarity and solidarity.

1. The rally on Saturday 12 September organised by me was the biggest so far in Ireland. (I hope there will be even bigger rallies organised and more solidarity campaigns run)

2. It was attended by a broad range of people.

3. 20+ organisations formally supported the rally. Of those, representatives from 9-10 organisations spoke at the rally. The organisations -  rightly so - decided on their speakers. It was up to each organisation to put forward a speaker.

4. The Syrian Community Group - which also has refugees from syria - put forward a speaker. It was, again, and rightly so, up to the community to decide on their speaker. Another Syrian women was also to speak but on the day she decided not do so.

5. Asylum Seeker speaker: Wali Ullah Safi, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan was to speak at the rally and I have announced his name and called on him number of times. Wali is the Afghan man who was arrested in Naas in July 2015. Unfortunately he wasn't there or he didn't come forward.

In summary we had 1 Muslim cleric, myself, 2 Syrian (man and women) 1 Asylum seeker speaker lined up. We also had a speaker from the Irish Traveller Movement - a traveller - but on the day this didn't materialise.

I think your criticism is misdirected and ignored to mention the above facts.

This rally was organised in the true meaning of a very broad united front approach and it was a very lively and energetic event.

Upwards and onwards.
Memet Uludag