Thousands plan to protest Donald Trump’s visit to Ireland

By Memet Uludag.

Protest: Thursday June 6, 6pm at the Garden of Rembrance, Dublin. See the Facebook event here.

Donald Trump is a threat to us all.

His presidential campaign was based on racism against Mexicans – “build that wall!” He has tried to ban visitors and migrants from Muslim countries from entering the US. He is separating children from their parents at the border. 

President Trump gives carte blanche support to apartheid Israel to murder Palestinians and steal their land at will. He has worked with, encouraged and emboldened far right racists and fascists across the world.

As the world’s leading climate change denier who has pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement, removed environment protection in America he is destroying the planet and endangering the whole future of humanity. 

In the age of #MeToo, when women globally are standing up for their rights, he has boasted of his ability to sexually assault women with impunity. 

He is undermining Irish neutrality via Shannon. He is an imperialist warmonger. 

Trump has posed as the friend of ‘the working man’ but in reality he is a billionaire property developer who represents the interests of the super-rich.  He filled his cabinet with CEOs and generals. 

Our protest against Trump is in solidarity with the millions of American people who are also victimised by Trump’s policies. We extend our solidarity to all people in the US involved in the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter campaigns, and those who stand up to Trump’s barbaric border policies.

United Against Racism calls on the Irish government, which claims to be progressive, to make this clear to Donald Trump and to ensure that no public money – so urgently needed for the housing and health crisis – is spent on this visit.  

We call on European governments to open the borders to refugees fleeing wars and persecution.  

We also call on the Irish government to #EndDirectProvision and normalise all undocumented migrants in Ireland.

We are for a progressive Ireland of equality, justice and hope, not of racism, hate and fear!

Memet Uludag is the convener of United Against Racism, and one of the organisers of the ‘Stand up to Trump!’ protest in Dublin, which is supported by a broad range of progressive campaign organisations, unions and parties. Protests are also taking place in Shannon, Cork, Belfast and Derry. Follow Memet on Twitter @Memzers, and follow United Against Racism on Twitter @UnitedARacism.

Emma DeSouza’s open letter to Sajid Javid: British Home Office is breaching Good Friday Agreement

Dear Home Secretary,

The Good Friday Agreement places the people of Northern Ireland in a unique position within the United Kingdom. We have the right to be Irish or British or both, as we so choose. A right that was overwhelming voted for in referendum and a right that your department is denying.

I am an Irish national, born in Northern Ireland, Irish by birthright and Irish under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. For four years now your department has dragged my family through the courts on the argument that I am automatically British, irrespective of my rights under the Good Friday Agreement.

A number of those affected by this erroneous presupposition – including myself – reached out to you last year with the support of organisations and political parties. You did not respond. 

For many, the incompatibility of Home Office policies and the UK Government’s commitments under the Good Friday Agreement is clear. After years of campaigning, this incompatibility and the restrictions NI-born Irish citizens encounter when interacting with your department was acknowledged by the Prime Minister herself on recent visit to Belfast.

On 5 February 2019, Theresa May pledged to urgently review these issues and bring policies into line with the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

She said: “There have also been serious concerns raised about how UK immigration rules treat citizens here exercising their rights under the Agreement to be Irish. The birthright to identify and be accepted as British, Irish or both, and to hold both British and Irish citizenship is absolutely central to the Agreement.

“But I know that in some cases recently, people have encountered difficulties in securing their rights as Irish citizens to bring in family members. I understand the serious concerns that have been raised. So I have asked the Home Secretary, working closely with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to review these issues urgently to deliver a long term solution consistent with the letter and spirit of the Belfast Agreement.”

Within minutes I had hopeful families reach out to me, hoping that their right to be accepted as Irish, not British, was about to be fulfilled. They were hopeful that they wouldn’t have to go to court to defend their rights like I have had to; hopeful that they wouldn’t have to proceed with renunciation of British citizenship, a workaround often offered by your department for those of us wanting to be accepted as Irish.

A week after this announcement I attended a court hearing with another family – a family with young children, children who were there watching as their parents fought to stay together without having to adopt a government-imposed citizenship.

I am gravely concerned that instead of finding a reasonable solution or honouring the commitments made by the Prime Minister your department has further singled out NI-born Irish citizens. According to the Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, we are to be among the only EU citizens within the UK unable to secure our rights under the settlement scheme.

How can your department justify splitting Irish citizens into two categories – those that can access their EU rights under the scheme and those that can’t?

I believe creating two groups of Irish citizens within the UK, with different rights, sets a dangerous precedent.

I ask that you release the terms of reference and timeframe for this urgent review.

Sincerely,
Emma DeSouza

Emma De Souza: British government refuses to recognise Irish citizenship

By Emma de Souza.

The Good Friday Agreement was overwhelming supported in referenda both North and South – yet a core principle and the very integrity of the treaty itself is currently being questioned and undermined. I am an Irish citizen born in Northern Ireland, whose Good Friday Agreement right to identify as such has been persistently denied by the British Home Office. 

In 2015 when I married my American husband Jake, I discovered that my lifelong Irish identity is evidently considered secondary to an unclaimed British identity. I have always believed throughout my life that I was Irish; it’s not a choice, it’s not a decision – it is simply who I am. 

I haven’t held a British passport or claimed British citizenship – yet there I was, in an unprecedented situation where this additional and entirely imposed citizenship was stripping me of my EU right to family life. Our application for an EEA [European Economic Area] Residence Card was met with a letter of refusal, accompanied by a deportation order. 

The British Home Office rejected Jake’s application for an EEA residence card in the north of Ireland, for complex reasons. Although I was born in Derry, and have a right under the Good Friday Agreement to identify as either Irish or British or both, Britian has classified me as being British.

In its refusal letter, the Home Office wrote: “…your spouse is entitled to renounce her status as a British citizen and rely on her Irish citizenship, but until that status is renounced she is as a matter of fact a British citizen”.

The British government effectively argued that I am a British citizen until I revoke it in favour of my Irish citizenship. As they therefore class me as a British citizen, but I am an Irish passport-holder, the British government had classified me as having dual-citizenship, and cannot go through the British immigration system as an EU national. On this basis, my husband’s application for a residence card was refused.

This presupposition goes against my understanding of not just the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, but my identity as a whole.

We appealed against the Home Office’s decision on the grounds that the Good Friday Agreement explicitly allows the people of the north of Ireland to chose their nationality – be that Irish or British or both – and were successful at the first hurdle.

Judge S Gillespie ruled: “The constitutional changes effected by the Good Friday Agreement with its annexed British-Irish Agreement, the latter amounting to an international treaty between sovereign governments, supersede the British Nationality Act 1981 insofar as the people of Northern Ireland are concerned. He or she is permitted to choose their nationality as a birth right. Nationality cannot therefore be imposed on them at birth.”

Two years later, and the British Home Office are still seeking to have this ruling set aside. Worryingly, the Secretary of State has lodged grounds of appeal, stating “A treaty HMG is a party to, does not alter the laws of the United Kingdom”. 

Devastatingly for us, the British government has pursued us tirelessly through the courts – for the duration of our marriage – because I hold Irish citizenship and will not accept a government-imposed British citizenship. The Home Office’s appeal is based on arguing that the judge’s interpretation of the law was flawed, and that the Good Friday Agreement has less authority than British immigration law.

This legal wrangle is now entering its fourth year. For the first two years, we lost our freedom of movement. The British Home Office retained Jake’s passport with no legislative authority or policy to do so. With these restrictions, Jake was unable to leave the country and had to turn down opportunities for work. 

The highest price, however, was losing the last two years of his grandmother’s life. Every request to see Jake’s grandmother in her progressively deteriorating condition was denied. When she passed away at home in Los Angeles, Jake’s request to attend the funeral was denied.

It was only after increased media pressure that the Home Office eventually relented – couriering Jake’s passport back to us and allowing him a belated farewell to his late grandmother; a bittersweet farewell mired in remorse for not having been afforded an opportunity to say goodbye. By this point, the personal cost and loss resulting from the Home Office and their decisions was becoming overwhelming. 

A price on Irish identity

Most troubling though is that our experience is not unique, but rather a window into a much deeper and wider issue occurring across our society. The reality being felt by myself and many in our community is that there is a price on Irish identity – a personal price that leaves many questioning what our identity is truly worth. 

A process referred to as Renunciation of British Citizenship is offered by the British Home Office as a solution, but what does it really entail? 

Firstly, the form is a legal document that begins with a declaration: “I am a British citizen”.

It also requires substantial evidence to prove you have British citizenship. Birth in the north of Ireland constitutes automatic British citizenship for those seeking to realize their EU rights. For those renouncing, it is considered insufficient evidence of British citizenship. Considering that many individuals choosing this route do not consider themselves British in the first place, it can be an emotionally arduous process. 

In addition, the process also costs £372. No small fee for renouncing a citizenship which under the Good Friday Agreement should be entirely optional.  There should be no levy on an Irish person to be recognised as Irish to live on our island!  Anyone taking this route will also lose freedom of movement for up to six months while the Home Office processes their application.

Then there is the uncertainty: nobody knows what the ramifications of renouncing are. In a recent case, the Home Office went so far as to question the residency rights of a citizen who had renounced their British citizenship. There is a very real possibility that going forward, anyone else choosing to renounce may be exposed to further impediments on their right to remain in their home. There is also concern about the rights of the wider family as a whole, and the effect renouncing may have on them. 

This, in my opinion, is not a reasonable solution.

The basis of the Good Friday Agreement is founded on equality of treatment and respect for the two communities of the north of Ireland.  This is a commitment the British government agreed to, and in the Brexit negotiations, has promised to uphold.

However, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes has raised grave concerns as to the British Government’s intentions stating:“Our view is that an international agreement such as the Belfast Agreement cannot supersede domestic legislation… as a matter of law, people in Northern Ireland are British by birth”.

My assertion calls into question the British government’s interpretation and dedication to the Good Friday Agreement. The effect of this interpretation are far-reaching, and are causing immense personal strain and hardship on families across the north of Ireland.

For many, identity is something which cannot be taken away, or even questioned. It has long been accepted by many as the most fundamental of rights. It is of paramount importance to the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement.  If the British government can arbitrarily disregard rights guaranteed to the people of the north of Ireland under an internationally binding peace treaty, what safeguards are in place to prevent further diminution of rights?

The uncertainty and lack of legal protections seems certain to get worse with the onset of Brexit. For us, 2019 will mark another court hearing on the right to have my identity recognised, respected and accepted as Irish. 

Emma De Souza is an immigration and citizens’ rights campaigner. Follow her on Twitter @EmmandJDeSouza. The open letter above was sent to political representatives including MEPs this week, and has been reprinted here with the author’s permission. (Photo supplied.)

Fortress Europe’s brutality goes mainstream

Guest post by Jon S. Rodríguez Forrest.

Last year more than 2,200 people died at sea while they were trying to reach the European Union. These deaths are not an unfortunate accident. These are murders, the direct consequence of political decisions taken by the coalition of Conservatives, Social Democrats, and Liberals that rules the EU.

In the context of a rising far right throughout the continent and further, the establishment has decided to not challenge the far right ideologically, but to assume its positions as their own and compete with them electorally. In this race to the bottom, ideas that five years ago – at the beginning of the present European Parliamentary mandate – were considered to be extremist are today being voiced by mainstream parties.

A perfect example of this is what is known as the ‘Australian model’. This system is based on the externalisation of borders, outsourcing asylum applications to third countries and creating detention centres abroad – far away from public scrutiny and in countries with extremely dubious human rights records.

Five years ago, this was an idea only voiced by Marine Le Pen and the like. Today it’s the EU’s common practice. The EU has armed and funded Libyan militias that routinely torture and sell migrants, it is funding the police forces of dictatorships like those of Sudan, Egypt and Morocco in the name of ‘border control’, and it has signed deals with countries like Turkey and Afghanistan to deport as many people as possible back to the violence they had originally fled from.

How did we get here?

But how have we arrived here? It is through the false rhetoric of a “refugee crisis” or a “migration crisis”, promoted directly from the European institutions and which has served a double purpose. On the one hand, it has allowed mainstream parties to show themselves as having a tough stance on migration and therefore being able to compete with the far right.

On the other hand, it has created the perception of an EU with extremely limited resources that cannot take in the numbers of people arriving. This is a lie. The EU is one of the wealthiest territories on the planet; there is objectively no lack of resources, but rather a problem with their distribution. And it must be noted that the countries hosting the highest numbers of refugees globally are not rich countries, but Middle Eastern and African ones. This is not an issue of resources but of political will.

To create the perception of an emergency, the EU has consciously closed its borders and created situations of humanitarian emergency which could easily be solved just by treating people equally. Today, if a boat is sinking in the Mediterranean it is treated in completely different ways depending on the skin colour of the people on it. If you’re white, you’ll be taken to safe port in Europe – if you’re not, you’ll be left to drown or, at best, taken to a port in North Africa where militias or corrupt police will detain you in inhumane conditions.

To serve this interest, they have even criminalised NGOs and activists doing search and rescue and other solidarity initiatives. These people are only covering up the responsibilities that EU member states are ignoring – but the governments actually don’t want this to happen and effectively ban any initiative to save lives.

EU breaking international law

All this has been accompanied by legislative measures being passed in European institutions that have reached the point of violating international law. They have created a new agency – the European Border and Coast Guard – a kind of police body accountable to no-one that can intervene directly in third countries and has been involved in illegal pushbacks in the Balkans.

The right to asylum has been restricted to cases originating from armed conflict recognised as such by the EU. Even if we know that 80 per cent of women arriving at our coasts are victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and as such should be granted asylum, they are systematically denied access.

EU money earmarked for development is being used to promote border control within the African continent to avoid migration to Europe, and the budget for returns alone was already over €950 million last year. Sovereign countries are being blackmailed by the EU in a completely colonial way to accept as many deportations as possible and adapt their policies to the EU’s interests.

In the same way that EU institutions imposed austerity policies and cuts in public spending, they are creating a narrative on migration based on the principle of there is no alternative. That is why they are reaching deportation and externalisation agreements with third countries that are completely opaque. It is why, in the new reform of the mandate of the European Border and Coast Guards, the European Commission intended to make it possible for this body to operate in a third country – for example, organising a deportation flight – without the consent of the Member State where this would happen.

Fortress Europe is a threat to democracy outside the EU because of its colonial nature that imposes unequal relations with countries of origin of migrants. But it also a threat to democracy within the EU, criminalising the activities of social movements and imposing policy on member states. A clear example of this is how, during the negotiations between Greek and EU authorities during the bailout, the closure of the borders was one of the issues on the negotiation table.

Redefining the concept of citizenship

But it is not all bad news. The xenophobic measures of the EU and the different governments have been in stark contrast with a number of solidarity initiatives. Social movements have organised on a European scale as we have not seen before, giving a valuable lesson to the political left. We have seen massive demonstrations from Barcelona to Brussels full of people asking for their governments to welcome migrants and open the borders.

Now it’s time for the left to be bold and put this issue at the centre of its policies. We must urgently abolish all our racist laws, and effectively end the detention and deportation of people. We must create safe and legal ways to reach the EU so people don’t have to put their lives at risk or die trying. We must implement effective resettlement and a system of humanitarian visas. We must radically change our foreign and trade policies, stop participating in and promoting conflicts in third countries, and stop the plunder of the resources of former colonies.

Apart from this, the left must take this opportunity to redefine our societies away from the constraints of the homogeneous nation state. It is an opportunity to redefine the concept of citizenship, and ensure equal rights to everybody independently from their origin.

The left cannot buy into the divide and rule tactics that are being imposed by the far right and accepted by mainstream parties. The same institutions that promote racist policies are those responsible for cuts in wages and public services.

We cannot consider ourselves as part of the same community who is implementing these measures at the same time as we see our black or brown neighbours as being different. It is time to unite as a class to create a system that is fair for everybody.

Jon S. Rodríguez Forrest is a political advisor for the Izquierda Unida delegation at the European Parliament. Follow him on Twitter @JonSForrest.