By | March 25, 2008

(Sunday’s column: this is the unedited copy – so a teency bit more ranty than that which appeared in de paper).

There are 33 million refugees across the planet. To hear some people talk, you’d think every last one of them would arrive in Dublin Airport tomorrow unless those two gardai at passport control keep their wits about them. We can relax. When people flee war, famine and systematic rape they usually run to another neighbouring poor country. If they are just hungry, as opposed to victims of violence, they’ll seek work in, yes, another neighbouring poor country. The world’s 80 million South to South migrants, as they are called, take the lowest, dirtiest jobs going in developing countries with a contiguous border to their own and send home whatever money they can to keep their family from starvation. They’d probably like to move to Ireland, but they there’s no way they can afford to. They’ve probably never even heard of Ireland.

So, yippee, we’re safe from the hordes of black “so-called” asylum seekers who in reality are “only” economic migrants. To be specific: last year the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner received around 4,300 applications for asylum status, 400 of which were granted. Can we handle 400 refugees? Apparently not. Apparently we’ve made it far too cushy for asylum seekers who are running around the country living it up with their social welfare and free flats. Don’t worry. The government has proposed tough new legislation to sort out the process and soon we’ll be able to ship those lying, free loading Africans back to where they came from in double quick time.

Chad on the other hand has taken, so far, 200,00 refugees from Darfur. I wonder can they handle them? With Sudanese militias attacking Chadaians on bordering towns, it must get a bit tricky at times. Oh well, that’s their problem. Give John O’Shea €50 and he’ll get them some clean water. Or something.

Now back to our problems, and in particular how to handle those cases of photogenic African women with cute children and sob stories about female genital mutilation. Or as Michael McDowell once called them “cock and bull” stories. Pamela Izevbekhai has two daughters, Naoimi (7) and Jemima (5). She had another daughter Elizabeth, but she died aged just 17 months from blood loss after she was mutilated in the brutal procedure that is common in certain areas of Africa including Nigeria.

In case you’re not familiar with FGM it involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. That can mean “just” cutting off the clitoris or labia minora. In Nigeria the version of FGM practicised is called infibulation. That’s where they stitch the labia majora together to seal the vagina, leaving just a small hole for urine and menstrual blood. The girls legs are bound together for several weeks so that it heals into a barrier. When she gets married the husband is then assured he has married a virgin. He’ll break the barrier either forcibly with his penis or cut her open. Whichever. I think its safe to say I’d get myself and my daughters to the other side of the world to escape that if I could. Especially if I’d seen one daughter die from the procedure.

It’s a terrible story and Pamela has won friends and supporters in Sligo where she has lived for the past few years. The story has been backed up although witnesses in Nigeria have been intimidated and are reluctant to talk about it anymore. But, as Amnesty International have pointed out, the facts are not disputed by the Irish state. They officially know. They just don’t care. Even if my daughters weren’t at risk of FGM, if I had the chance to get them out of a poor nation where they had few prospects to a rich one where they had some, I’d take it. After all, its what Irish people have done for 200 years.

Pamela has had a lot of sympathy and support though none from Justice Minister Brian Lenihan, who at the time of writing, wasn’t on for giving her a safe home in Ireland. You can see his point : if you let one in, they’ll all be over on the next flight.

Though there are many cases like Pamela’s, hers has received a lot of attention possibly due to both the prettiness of the daughters and the strength of her friends in Sligo. It has exposed something I have long observed about Irish people and our capacity to hold completely contradictory and indeed, hypocritical positions simultaenously.

Position 1. We can’t allow those Nigerians to come in here, living off the State with their made up stories. If we let some in, they’ll all want to come. The government should do something.

Position 2. That poor women. It’s so sad. She should be let stay. The government should do something.

Position 3. Sure, half of them aren’t asylum seekers at all, they’re only here after money.

Position 4. It’s not fair. My cousin in America couldn’t come home for her father’s funeral cos she’s illegal. The government should do something.

Give us a name, let us meet the woman and hear her story and we will literally march in the street to demand that she be rescued. But this year the government will push through the Immigration, Residence & Protection Bill which will cut out cumbersome appeals procedures, broaden the basis under which foreigners can be deported and insist that a foreigner who wants to marry either another foreigner or an Irish citizen can only do so with the permission of the Minister for Justice. The opposition will make a little noise about it but I’d bet the price of storing unwanted electronic voting machines that the bill will go through without too much fuss. Irish people can find compassion for individual cases but get panic stricken at the thought of “them all” coming over here and so support draconian legislation to keep them, and their stories, out of the country.

Whenever I’ve challenged someone on their desire to protect the illegal cousin in America and their complaints about refugees in Ireland, they’ll usually claim that the cousin pays his own way while the refugee gets services that are being denied to more deserving Irish people. Refugees aren’t allowed work and personally I find it morally reprehensible to let the people at the bottom of the pile fight it out for rent allowance for disgusting flats. We could put the electronic voting machines on a bonfire and free up a few quid for something more worthy.

Still that fear and resentment can’t be shifted. Why are we so afraid of helping these people as we sought help in our millions, in the past? What can they possibly do to us or take away from us? Money? We have plenty of money, just no idea how to spend it fairly.

Jimmy Devins and Eamon Scanlon are the Fianna Fail TDs for Sligo-North Leitrim. If the Minister for Justice thought one of them could lose a seat over Pamela Izevbekhai she’d have some chance of staying here. Their seats are safe but her daughters are not.

Update : Myers makes a good point today (loaded with all the usual provocative statements, but ANYWAY)

Two-and-half-years ago, a Nigerian idiot named Osagie Igbinidion was found not guilty of the reckless endangerment of life, after a little boy he circumcised, 29-day-old Callis Osajhae, bled to death. The trial judge, Kevin Haugh, told the jury not to bring their “white, western values” to bear upon their deliberations. Describing the case as a clash between two cultures, he added: “This is a relatively recent matter that Ireland will have to deal with now that we have a significant migrant population. You are not asked whether this form of procedure is acceptable in Ireland. If you start thinking on those lines, you are doing Mr Igbinidion a great injustice.”

Just one commentator in the media remarked upon this extraordinary case, in which a man walked free from a court having sexually mutilated and mortally wounded a little boy. Me. I wrote: ” . . . had the dead child been female, I believe that no jury would have been told not to bring their white, western values to bear on the case — or if they had been, we may equally be sure that the judge would not be dangling from the nearest lamp-post . . .”

I do not know what that fine fellow Osagie Igbinidion is doing today.

He has not, to my knowledge, and considerable regret, been deported — nor has he been issued with a court order compelling him to desist from his merry trade (he is a fourth generation circumciser; ah the joys of multiculturalism). So it is as legal to chop little boys’ penises off today as it was then, and if they die as a consequence, the judicial advice rings down the years, not to bring our “white western values” into the case.

But when the infant in question is a girl, then those white, western values are suddenly all we care about; hence the uproar over Pamela Izevbekhai and her two daughters.

66 thoughts on “Asylum

  1. Frank Ryan

    Hi name caller Gerry!

    I am not a member of the ICP and have no affiliation of any sort with them though I have like you seen their website and I find much of what they have perfectly reasonable and reflective of quite a lot of peoples opinion. I

    just don’t think having a political party by that name and such narrow policies is a good way to address the issue of the passive colonization of Ireland by comparatively huge numbers of foreign nationals which has been going on for the past 15 years now or so.

    It is reasonable to not want such a demographic experiment to take place in my country but perhaps as you say this is a minority view? Hard to say really as nobody was ever asked about the issues we are now facing and anytime someone expresses a strong disagreement for such policies [or lack of]

    If you and your ilk continue to do this ad nauseam then my great fear is that such people, who stripped of a voice, will just abandon the space and have it filled by people who will just start beating up foreigners and burn people in hostels homes etc and much worse. It will be amusing to see how things pan out in say 10 or 25 years.

  2. Frank Ryan

    The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.

  3. Graham

    This has got to win the prize for your most thought provoking post, even if it was just one or two readers fighting amongst themselves.
    What is blatantly clear to me is xenophobia is alive and well in Ireland. Since the lads seem to like throwing stats around, what about the fact that Ireland is still grossly underpopulated, compared to the rest of Europe? I also think its fair to say that our economy has been helped in no small part, by the numbers of foreign workers coming into the country over the last 10 years, workers we should be welcoming with open arms.
    Are there some fake claims for asylum and people trying to make it on handouts from the state? I’m pretty sure there are. How many Irish people are claiming from the state here though? Lone parents, desserted wives, disability allowances etc., certainly some of those claiming for these benefits are not entitled to them. There are more than enough Irish people, from every possible background, claiming for money that they are not entitled to, but of course, it’s the scary black man/woman from Nigeria that is the real threat to our society.

  4. Frank Ryan

    Another truly moronic post!

    “What is blatantly clear to me is xenophobia is alive and well in Ireland.”

    Which makes it even clearer that you are a fascist and a liar! No way was there anything on display but that never stops your type. You always stat the name calling and so try silence those with very different views.


    The rest is the usual false assertions and nonsensical stuff. As a metter of simple fact immigration does not create more wealth net. What it does dois increase the size of the economy which is not the same thing!

    As for Ireland being underpopulated? What kind of an idiotic thing is that to say? Would you care to tell us what is the right size population? It is as it is and given the road it has taken to be where it is now it is already too over populated relative to the resources and infrastructure we have. mass immigration is a huge experiment with LONG TERM effects.

    Other countries in Europe are only no realizing some of those down sides and in Ireland we had the chance to avoid those same mistakes but instead we didn’t and people like you do your best to prevent any sort of debate with a critical perspective.

    As for Irish CITIZENS and benefit or crime or whatever. That has nothing to do with any thing. It is an issue in of itself. whereas when foreigners become part of that story IT IS ADDITIONAL AND AVOIDABLE IN THE FIRST PLACE – simply upheld the integrity of our national sovereignty and have an actual immigration policy that is clear and that works.

    The huge costs of mass immigration are not mentioned when this issue is ever in the public domain.These costs are often unseen and also long term. They are often social,which in turn becomes economic. Just the other day on the news were being told about how teachers needed this and that and mad things like translators free special needs things for people from every country under the sun. A self sustaining and self perpetuating industry/machine.

    If this sort of thing had been loudly announced in advance of the huge influx of foreigners coming here over the past 10-15 years then at least you could say that people have bought into the whole thing and then I would just be a grumpy minority with my own particular view and preferences.

    If I were moving to Poland or Germany or god forbid Nigeria [be very hard for me as an Irish citizen be allowed to live there] then I would make sure I had learned as much as I could about that country and its culture including language and make sure I was informing myself well enough o be able to try assimilate into those countries .

    I would not expect that I would get free language courses and training as I would expect that is something I should expect to pay for myself as the person choosing to go to that particular country.

    Anyway it is funny the way some people have such idiotic views as yourself Graham but then being stupid is easy!

  5. Tomaltach

    I would make sure I had learned as much as I could about that country and its culture including language and make sure I was informing myself well enough [t]o be able to try assimilate into those countries . I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. This alone illustrates how madly divorced from reality you are, how you clearly have a connection to earth from some distant and bizarre planet.

    Here on earth it works like this: a European economy turns down sharply, or the EU opens up to its Eastern and far poorer neighbours, or elsewhere outside of Europe you have a drought. In all these cases your family is quite quickly on the breadline or worse and opportunities lie in a wealthier country. What do you do? Wait around until your French is perfect before you set off for France? Study an English course before hitting the UK. I’m sorry, you need a medicine calle reality – in large doses.

  6. The Crewser

    This is an issue which is always thought provoking and it is unreasonable to totally berate someone for holding a particular viewpoint. It does not mean they are a rascist. If we have learned anything from the UK experience it should be that inward migration of other nationalities, managed correctly can be beneficial for everybody. But we have enough freeloaders of our own without taking on a disproportionate complement of people from any other State or Continent with ideas that this Country, because of its economic success can give them a comfortable lifestyle without the need to earn it.

  7. Zara

    I think Crewser has just killed off the Eoghan Harris identity theory.

    He posted here at 10.10pm so unless there’s Wifi in the Late Late Show’s green room or he has a BlackBerry, it ain’t him. Back to the drawing board boys.

    Dunphy was great, Harris should take a razor to that tash.

    Carry on.

  8. Zara

    >What is blatantly clear to me is xenophobia is alive and well in Ireland.

    Yawn. It is so boring that anyone who believes immigration law – just like any other law – should be complied with is automatically accused of xenophobia.

    Grow a few brain cells please Graham. We live in a democracy. If you don’t like it, go and live in Zimbabwe.

  9. Frank Ryan

    Harris is charlatan – a show man. He is clever and good at what he does but ultimately behind all the bluster his arguments are shallow. He got the job in the senate purely on the strength of his performance on the Late Late before the election. He is so biased it is funny. Dunphy said it best when he talked about relatively clean. oddly enough he reminded me of the whole debate about cultural relativism and the whole backlash against multiculturalism.


  10. The Crewser

    Zara, you would be amazed at the versatility of modern technology. Do not pay a lot of attention to those posting times.

  11. V


    and that includes FRANK RYAN GRANDFATHERISM ! and we return to square one. At least the battle lines are clear.

  12. The Crewser

    Not really. Did he not fight in the Spanish Civil War.

  13. V

    That’s another story, no shame for being scarred by infighting on your own side.

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