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Treatment of Minorities

Treatment of Minorities

There are strong signs of anti-Roma, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments in the Irish society.

A study among immigrant teenagers (aged 10-17) conducted in 2010 revealed that 6% of them are often subjected to abuse and bullying.

In June 2014, the "Hate and Hostility Research Group" and the "Irish Research Council" published a report which highlighted the anti-Muslim racism in Ireland. 58% of Muslim respondents had experienced racism in the past 4 years. 36% of respondents believe that they have been subjected to racism because they were identified as Muslims, and 22% reported that they were victims of years of physical attacks. These attacks ranged from punches and jolts to tearing the hijab off and spitting.

On the other hand, on August 20, a sociological survey was published by The Sunday Times, which revealed that 86% of Irish people support homosexual relations, and 75% believe that same-sex couples must have the right to adopt children.

Migration has increase from 69,300 in the year ending April 2015 to 84,600 in the year ending April 2017. April 2016 saw the first net inward migration since the start of the Global Financial Crisis in 2009. In the year ending April 2015, 26.6% Irish, 5.0% UK, 10.2% EU 15, 12.2 % EU 13, and 21.9% Rest of World. In year ending 2016, 28.4% Irish, 5.9% UK, 11.4% EU 15, 13.2% EU 13, and 23.6% Rest of the World. In year ending 2016, 28.4% Irish, 5.9% UK, 11.4% EU 15, 13.2% EU 13 and 23.6% Rest of World. In year ending 2017, 27.4% Irish, 6.1% UK, 10.8% EU 15, 10.9% EU 13, and 29.4% Rest of World.

No major changes were made to immigration law during the period under consideration. This said, two statutory instruments issued by the Irish Government to change provisions within the 2004 Immigration Act to include the granting of visas to citizens of Georgia and the Ukraine were implemented. Coming as part of move towards visa-free travel for the countries across Europe since 2008, these new measures came in recognition of attempts by the EU to liberalise visa travelfor Georgian, Moldovan and the Ukrainian citizens.

Oversight over the enforcement of immigration law in Ireland is formally the remit of the Garda (Police) National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) which was established in May 2000. They are involved in the execution of deportation orders, operational decisions to do with entry and exits of migrants, and prevention of human trafficking in the country. Heavy politicisation of the asylum seeker issue in the 1999-2004 period led to asylum seekers being removed from the mainstream social protection system with responsibility handed over to the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform. In comparison to other European nations, the numbers of foreign individuals detained for immigration-related purposes in Ireland are relatively low – with 351 individuals incarcerated in 2015.

However, Ireland is one of only a few countries in Europe that uses prisons for immigration detention. In the period under study, for example, the case of Brazilian women, Paloma Aparezida Silva-Carvalho, came to light in July 2017 after she was denied entry to land and forced to stay in Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison until public outcry forced her release. A recent report by the Irish Immigration Support Centre suggests that overcrowding and criminality within detention centres is common and criticises the Irish immigration system for running on a two-tier system wherein Dublin Airport has a civilianised border vs. the police-led operations at all other ports of entry. Ireland is set to open its first immigration detention facility at Dublin Airport in 2018.

While attitudes towards migrants hardened in Ireland after the 2008 economic recession, Ireland is generally one of the most tolerant societies amongst the countries under consideration. Indeed, a study by Dr’s Frances McGinnity and Gillian Kingston at Trinity College Dublin found that – despite attitudes towards migrants becoming more negative as a result of recession-based unemployment between 2008-11 – once this was accounted for a higher proportion of immigrants were associated with more positive attitudes.

Moreover, amongst more educated cohorts, this effect is more pronounced – with unemployment more acutely felt amongst cohorts with lower educational qualifications. Interestingly, McGinnity and Kingston (2017) found that cultural change and transformation had a very small or no effect on anti-migrant prejudice. This was attributed to the relatively short period of mass immigration into Ireland in the 2000’s and the ‘whiteness’ of migrants being received during that period.

This trend towards more positive attitudes was reflected in popular attitudes during the period under consideration. For example, in February 2017, it was reported that Irish citizens were 20 points above the European average in their positivity towards EU (81%) and non-EU migrants (57%). This was despite 41% of Irish citizens listing ‘immigration’ as their main concern, above ‘terrorism’ (33%) and ‘public finances’ (21%). Moreover, and focusing on refugees, Irish citizens were broadly supportive of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme where the government promised to welcome 4,000 Syrian refugees to Ireland by the end of 2017. In a February 2017 Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll, 54% said that they would not object to a refugee centre in their own community and 52% agreeing that greater cosmopolitanism has a more positive effect on society.

Despite this, there were lingering prejudicial fears about the presence of (predominantly Muslim) Syrian migrants – with 62% concerned that terrorists could enter Ireland and only 19% agreeing that Islamic communities do enough to adapt to the Irish way of life. Moreover, the same poll found that 53% of Irish citizens didn’t believe that the Islamic community was doing enough to encourage Muslims to adapt to Irish ways of living. This builds on previous research that illustrates lingering anti-Muslim prejudice in Irish society – finding that only 41% of Irish citizens would accept ‘some’ or ‘many’ Muslim migrants coming into the country; that 13.7 % of Irish citizens would not want a Muslim neighbour; and, that 22% of Irish citizens wish for a total ban on Muslim migration.

Despite the Muslim communityonly making up 1.3% of the Irish population, anti-Muslim prejudice in Ireland has become a key issue of concern during the period under consideration. A newly released report by the Turkish-based Foundationfor Political, Economicand Social Research (SETA) in March 2017 found ‘worrying developments’ in the treatment and perception of Muslims in Ireland – with ‘terror attack’, ‘terrorists’ and‘extremists’ often being used as co-locates for ‘Islamic’ in Irish media reporting as well as structural and institutional exclusion said to be occurring in the educational sphere. While it was noted that the Irish Garda had started recording anti-Muslim hostility on its PULSE database in 2015, the author of the report, Dr James Carr, could not access statistics about these incidents at the Central Statistics Office. Moreover, in June 2017, there were reports of anti-Muslim graffiti, saying “F**k Islam”, being sprayed at a park and a bus stop in Tallaght, South Dublin. This led to renewed calls by key figures in South Dublin’s Muslim community for hate crime legislation to be introduced. Finally, the period under consideration came after a heightened period of anti-Muslim activism –with an Irish chapter of PEGIDA(Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) set up in January 2016, patrols being conducted by the Irish chapter of the Finnish anti-Islam and anti-refugee vigilante group, the Soldiers of Odin, in May and the setting up of the far-right anti-Islamic National Party in November 2016. It seems that anti-Muslim prejudice has mainly been stirred by these groups and media reporting during the period under study.

One minority group that is persistently painted in a negative light in Ireland is the traveller community. In an October 2017 poll, only 9% of respondents would want a family member to marry a person from a population considered as ‘itinerants’ by the Irish government. Moreover, while 47% of people were happy to have a Polish co-worker, only 25% would accept a traveller as a fellow work colleague. In an earlier poll, 52% of the Irish population objected to travellers being an ethnic minority; this was in contrast to 81% of Irish TeachtaDála (TD or ‘Member of Parliament’) being supportive of the measure. Despite recognition of their unique ethnic identity in March 2017, the picture is therefore still bleak for this minority in Ireland – with only 16% of travellers completing compulsory education and wide pessimism around life chances being prevalent amongst the community in 2017. This picture of prejudicial feelings can also be extended to the Roma the 5,000 Romani Gypsies in Ireland – with only 25% of Irish citizens saying they would accept ‘some’ or ‘many’ Roma migrants coming into the country.

According to Pew Research, published in October 2018, 60% of Irish people have a positive attitude towards Muslims and were ready to accept them into their family. For Jews, this figure increased to 70%. 66% positively perceive sexual minorities. Only 20% of young people in the country oppose same-sex marriage. These are quite high levels of tolerance for Europe.

In July 2020, a study by the Irish Institute for Economic and Social Research which examines Irish latent attitudes towards minorities. The results were stunning. Thus, while 66% of those surveyed openly supported the arrival of more blacks in Ireland, this figure dropped to 51% when respondents were given the opportunity to hide their data. Fewer people openly supported an increase in Muslim immigration, with no evidence that people were hiding their attitudes. The positive attitude towards Muslims also decreased to 53%.

A year later, in July 2021, the University of Birmingham conducted new study showing that 44.6% of respondents admitted negative attitudes towards Payvie Irish nomads, followed by Muslims ( 25.9%) and then Pakistanis (14.5%). The negative attitude towards Jews is 8.5%. If we talk about payvies, their indicator is 5.4% better than in March 2000, but this difference can be attributed to statistical error. However, this figure is much lower than the rate of attitude towards them by police officers (Garda) - the survey, the results of which were published in August 2020 showed that almost 100% of police officers surveyed had a negative view of nomads, and almost 73 % had a negative attitude towards gypsies, a significant part had a negative attitude towards Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs and black Africans.

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