UN Committee on Racism issues Concluding Observations for Ireland

UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) issued its Concluding Observations on Friday 11 March 2011.  These can be found at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/co/Ireland_AUV.pdf 

The UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination concludes that the economic recession threatens achievements to combat racism and sends a clear message that racism must be back on the political agenda of the new Irish Government. 

The Committee’s observations concur with NGO concerns that racism has fallen off the political agenda. The recommendations send a clear message that this situation must be reversed.  The Concluding Observations are timely, coming only days after the new Government takes Office.  We call on the Government to take seriously and prioritise actions to combat racism as it sets out to deliver the Programme for Government.  The Committee’s Concluding Observations can play a crucial role is setting out a mandate for the new Government on anti racism.”
The UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination heard the Government’s report on its commitments under the UN Convention on the Elimination on all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) from 22-23 February.  It issued its Concluding Observations today, Friday 11 March from Geneva. 
Anastasia Crickley, an Irish member of CERD, says that “the Concluding Observations of CERD on Ireland’s third and fourth report echo the concerns and recommendations reflected in the remarks made on the first and second report, calling again on Ireland to work more concretely towards recognising the Traveller community as an ethnic group and to intensify its efforts to implement policies to promote their effective equality.  Ireland is reminded that notwithstanding the current economic recession, enhanced efforts need to be made to protect individuals from racial discrimination and that budget cuts should not result in stifling the activities of human rights and other bodies to effectively monitor protection from racial discrimination.  The Committee also recommends that legislation be brought forward to improve the protection of all people from racial discrimination.”
The Committee notes with regret that the economic recession threatens to reverse the achievements that have been made by Ireland to combat racial discrimination at all levels.  The Committee expresses grave concern over the disproportionate budget cuts to various human rights institutions mandated to promote and monitor human rights such as the Irish Human Rights Commission, the Equality Authority and the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism.
The “persistent refusal” on the part of the State to recognise Travellers as an ethnic group is identified as a key concern.  It recommends also that the State undertakes concrete measures to improve the livelihoods of the Traveller community by focusing on improving students’ enrolment and retention in schools, employment, access to healthcare and accommodation including transient sites. 
On the issue of hate crime, the Committee makes a number of comments.  It notes with regret that the review of the Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 has stalled.  The Committee recommends that the Government pass legislation to declare illegal and prohibit racist organisations, in line with article 4(b) of the Convention.  It also recommends that the racist motivation be consistently taken into account as an aggravating factor in sentencing practice for criminal offences.  It also recommends that the State take appropriate steps to encourage the reporting of racist incidents and crimes. 
There is much for the Government to consider in the area of immigration and asylum.  The Committee is concerned at the negative impact that the policy of direct provision has had on the welfare of asylum seekers who, “due to inordinate delay in the processing of their applications and the final outcomes of their appeals and reviews, as well as poor living conditions, can suffer health and psychological problems that in certain cases lead to serious mental illness”. 
The Committee notes that the lapsed Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill and the fact that current legislation does not provide adequate protection for separated children and unaccompanied minors. It calls on the Government both to improve the existing draft legislation and to pass it into law. In particular, the State should improve the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill to provide for the right of migrants to judicial review against administrative actions and to “ensure the right of migrant women in abusive relationships to legal protection by providing them with separate residence permits”. 

The Committee is concerned at the lack of legislation proscribing racial profiling by the Garda Siochána (Police) and other law enforcement personnel. The Committee recommends that the Ireland adopts legislation that prohibits any form of racial profiling, a practice which has the danger of promoting racial prejudice and stereotypes against certain groups in Ireland. Furthermore, Ireland should strengthen its efforts to promote the humane treatment of “migrants and people of non-Irish origin” by the Garda Síochána (Police) and other law enforcement personnel in accordance with international human rights law.

For further information contact:
·         Catherine Lynch, European Network Against Racism (ENAR) Ireland – Tel. 01-8897110 EnarIreland@gmail.com  or

Background information:
·         ENAR Ireland is an Irish network against racism of anti racist organisations working collectively to highlight and address racism.  We are the Irish Coordination for the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), an EU wide network of over 700 non governmental organisations.  ENAR Ireland and other stakeholders attended the Hearing in Geneva and made a presentation to the Committee.  See www.enarireland.org or www.enar-eu.org
·         The UN CERD is the oldest UN Committee and has eighteen members including one Irish member, Anastasia Crickley.  Anastasia Crickley is the first Irish woman and second Irish person to be appointed to such a UN Committee. Anastasia will be well known to many readers as a founding and active member of the CWC and Head of Department of Applied Social Studies, NUI Maynooth.  She had previously acted as Chair of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency until June 2010 and was the Chair of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism. 
 
Resources/References
CERD Concluding Observations are available at:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/co/Ireland_AUV.pdf

 
OHCHR Database contains all the reports from the Irish Government to CERD to date as well as CERD documents, see http://tb.ohchr.org/default.aspx?country=ie
The CERD webpage on the OHCHR database includes agenda for CERD Hearing and also NGO shadow reports submitted to the Committee in advance of the Hearing. 11 NGO reports were submitted, see http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/cerds78.htm

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