Government workers to spy on asylum-seekers ?


This July on a talk show on FM104 in Dublin, one refugee joked; "I had one yellow card, I have just been given another and we all know what this means in football" . Few of the hand picked audience of taxi drivers, private security guards and the likes were laughing, very few "got" the joke. The card referred to is the ID card now issued to all asylum-seekers. These are now automatically renewed through the post (you may remember last February refugees were made to queue in the rain outside the Department of Justice - presumably the government didn't want to repeat such a spectacle which could have damaged "our" summer tourist industry).

These yellow ID cards are the ones described in the last issue of Workers Solidarity where the person is named as "the person claiming to be so and so". Asylum-seekers are now required to carry these cards and produce them for the Gardaí whenever asked to do so. This, though, is only the beginning.

Informers' charter

On Thursday 7th May 1998, the Minister for Justice John O'Donoghue summarised some of the recommendations of an Inter-Departmental Committee on Non-Nationals which he had set up. One of these is that:

"..the providers of publicly funded services such as social welfare, health, education, employment training and accommodation should notify the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform of applicants for these services who do not have appropriate documentation".

This amounts to a grass's charter. Workers in the public sector are being asked to act as spies and informers in tracking down people without appropriate papers. These workers should not allow themselves to be used in this way. We already spend much of our time being registered, regulated and spied on by our own bosses - we shouldn't do this dirty work on others for them.

In theory two of the unions: IMPACT (health and local government workers) and the INTO (primary teachers) who might be asked to perform these ID checks already have excellent anti-racist policy (thanks to the work of the Anti-Racism Campaign and other anti racists in these unions). For example IMPACT's Eastern Health Board branch have policy which states:

"It would be impractical and indeed unfair to attempt to discriminate between people who may be likely to become convention refugees (or be given humanitarian stays) and those who may be considered economic migrants. All need shelter and income."

The challenge is to put this good theory into practice. If these compulsory ID checks become law, workers should refuse to co-operate with them.

Deportations are already happening

Meanwhile deportation orders are still being delivered. Also, at the instigation of Fianna Fáil TD Ivor Callely, the Eastern Health Board is carrying out a "review" of all payments to refugees which will probably recommend cutbacks.

All is not doom and gloom. The Anti Racism Campaign has been extremely active, as have WSM members inside it. A very successful public meeting on the right to work for asylum seekers was held in July. There has been considerable media coverage and support for this demand including from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed.

We must be clear that, while winning this right would be a great victory which would draw asylum-seekers much more into contact with their fellow workers, it would only be a small step. Asylum-seekers are already allowed to work in six EU countries, where they usually suffer miserable wages and conditions.

ARC supports the idea of properly paid jobs for everyone, Irish and asylum-seekers. The WSM has been campaigning for the immediate implementation of a national minimum wage of £5.00 per hour. ARC, along with other groups, hopes to organise a major event around the right to work in October.

Conor Mc Loughlin

Association of Refugees and Asylum Seekers, 4 Preston Street, Dublin 1. Tel 01-8551457

ARC: c/o Comhlamh, 10 Upper Camden Street, Dublin 2; or e-mail; or come to the meetings at the Vietnamese Centre in Hardwicke Street on Wednesdays at 8 pm; or check out the Website; or phone 088-2129770

Immigrant Solidarity: P.O. Box 178, Cork; or come to the meetings every Monday night at 8 pm at the Middle Parish Community Hall, Grattan St (near Courthouse), Cork. or check out the Website

Mid West Against Racism: Kings Island Youth and Community Development Centre, Verdant Place, Kings Island, Limerick: or come to the meetings at the Kings Island Centre on Wednesdays at 7 pm or check out the Website

There is also an internet discussion group for Irish anti-racists. Send an E-mail to with the message "subscribe unity".

This article is from Workers Solidarity No 55 published in October 1998