Afghan Asylum Seekers

Ok, I’ve thought long and hard on whether or not to post on this and some people may disagree with my views but there ya go. Since last Sunday evening a group of Afghan asylum seekers have been inside St Patrick’s Cathedral on a hunger strike. They are demanding to stay in Ireland as they believe they will be killed if they go back to Afghanistan. The story has been unfolding over the past week and the Dublin Community Blog has done an excellent job of tracking developments over the past couple of days. I’ve been following the coverage on the web but haven’t seen much of the reporting on RTE. However, I do feel I know enough about the situation to comment.

First of all I can understand the extreme nature and instability of Afghanistan. The Americans have created a pseudo-democracy in a country where war lords still hold sway over vast regions of the country. I’m not denying that these men probably went through a lot to get to Ireland and are desperate to stay. However, it is not acceptable to insist that the Minister of Justice make an exception in relation to any case for asylum. It’s simply not on. If we do it for this group then we’ll have to do it again and again. “Residents Against Racism” is supporting them but I believe that to boil this down to an issue of race is simplifing things unneccessarily. If I don’t support these guys am I a racist? I’m a believer in due process even though our system may not be perfect but it needs to be respected by everyone. Plus, these guys are now threatening to kill themselves if the Gardai intervene to remove them from the Church. A few questions to air:

  • How did these guys get to Ireland? Did they come via Europe? There are many safe countries along the route from Afghanistan to Ireland where they could have applied for asylum.
  • Why are they threatening to kill themselves in a place of worship? It shows a lack of respect for the faith of the people who attend mass there.
  • Why are they so sure that if they return to Afghanistan they will be killed? Yes the country is in bits but how are they so sure? Gerry Ryan from 2FM asked the same question during the week and wasn’t given a straight answer.

I don’t consider myself racist. I support the fact that we provide asylum to people from war torn countries across the world. Starving yourself and threatening to commit suicide in a church should not allow you to ignore the fact that there is due process. If I’m labelled a racist for asking questions of these guys then so be it.

5 Comments

  1. Paddy   •  

    Thankfully this situation resolved itself without anyone dying. Your questions are valid & Id love to see em answered. Odds that it will come out that RAR organised the whole thing?. . .

  2. trev   •  

    i agree completely tony,
    i think on this issue you have written a well weighted and considered piece thats shows your true feelings and responsibility, and dare i say it, a brave piece in the face of the “Race-Card-Playing-Nazis” who brand anyone that doesn’t agree with them. Your way of thinking and the ordinary people ,citizens and asylums seekers alike, often get lost in the middle of soapboxers who feel the need to blow their tops at any given oppertunity.

    blow their tops oooerr matron 😆

  3. anthony   •     Author

    Paddy: I’m not saying that RAR are inciting acts like this but I do believe they should have a more balanced view on issues such as this.

    Trev: Absolutely. Situations such as that at St Patricks can cloud rational thought and debate. If our asylum laws were unfair or biased towards deportation, wouldn’t Europe hold us to account?

    Like the Carry On reference. 🙂

  4. Conor   •  

    Nobody in their right mind would consider anything in that piece to be racist.

    I don’t agree with the actions of these men (and frankly I’m so callous I wouldn’t particularly care if they were left to starve themselves), and I have a lot of faith in the fairness of our asylum process. But I’ll have a stab at your questions anyway:

    (1) There’s no onus on any asylum seeker to claim refuge in the nearest country to them, or in the first “safe” country they come to. Such a requirement would place an unfair amount of pressure on the resources of countries nearest conflict areas (and, very often, such countries are themselves relatively unstable). I don’t think it’s unfair to say we have a general obligation to the international community.

    In this specific instance (assuming they passed through another EU country first), we could probably have referred their case elsewhere. We waived our right to do so, so the question becomes fairly moot.

    I think the question you’re driving at is “Why are they here in the first place?”. It’s a fair question, but it doesn’t really have a bearing on the validity or otherwise of their claim.

    (2) I understand the Dean of St Patrick’s tends to be quite sympathetic to asylum seekers, so he might have let them in. Also, the CoI hierarchy don’t control it (AFAIK). But, to answer your question more generally, why not there? As good a place as any and better than most, I would have thought.

    (3) Afghanistan is, as you point out, still a fairly war-torn place. How could anyone give any assurance as to their safety? The government in place over there certainly couldn’t. And if they had been aligned with any of the warring parties (including the Taliban), they’d certainly be a valid target for any of the others.

    I’d be surprised if RAR organised it themselves. It looks to me more like they hitched themselves to the cause after it had already started. Such things happen.

  5. Kevin T   •  

    Impossible, how GOOD your work is. I am realy surprised. Bxx5!!!

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