Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Afghan hunger strikers in Ireland

Kildare Nationalist:

THE dramatic events in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin last weekend provided a snapshot of our changing country. Surely no Irish person could ever have foreseen the day when immigrants to this country would have used the weapon of hunger strike to make their point. Hunger strike carries a uniquely emotional connotation in Ireland, which, presumably, is why the 41Afghan men and assorted minors chose to employ it. Of course, they also chose to put nooses round their own necks and threatened to throw themselves of a 40-foot high balcony, but that’s neither here nor there.

We are all grateful that the protest ended peacefully and without loss of life, but the whole affair raises some unsettling questions. For a start, whatever the rights and wrongs of the men’s cases - and there was very little right with it, if truth be told - there are ways of doing things. Occupying the host country’s major centre of worship is certainly not the way to do it. Few other countries would have shown the degree of patience and forbearance exhibited by the authorities here. In France, for example, the Afghans might well have counted their stay in St Patrick’s in minutes not days.

Likewise, the personal circumstances of the Afghan asylum-seek-ers is somewhat bewildering. Their precise reasons for deciding to stage this stunt are unclear. It appears that there were no imminent threats of deportation against any of them, two of them had already been given leave to stay in the country, and others were wending their way through the various stages of our extensive asylum process. So why the sudden need to take this frankly outrageous action? Some have pointed to a similar protest by Afghan asylum-seekers in Belgium, which resulted in the protestors successfully securing permission to stay in that country. Like its Belgian counterpart, the Irish protest was well organised and far from spontaneous. The apparent orchestration behind both actions should ring alarm bells across the EU.

The government was right to face down the Afghans and to refuse to accept the deal being brokered by Church of Ireland negotiators. It had no other choice: it cannot negotiate on a collective basis with refugees and asylum-seekers. To do so would be to invite a spate of similar collective actions, which might eventually escalate until lives are lost, and nobody wants that.

Every nation on earth has an immigration procedure. No sane country believes in throwing open its borders to all who want to enter. This is not “racist”; it is merely common sense. As long as that procedure is fair and transparent, it should enjoy the support of the vast majority of this country’s citizens. The UN High Commission on Refugees has looked at the Irish system and found it fair, fast and well resourced.

One final point, though: one of the men involved in the Afghans’ protest apparently freely confesses to his part in several killings and the rape of at least five women as a member of the Taliban. Several others claim to have been Taliban commanders who engaged in the torture of prisoners. Are these real-ly the kind of people we want to let stay in this country? Didn’t the world reject the Nuremberg defence from war criminals a long time ago?

Rejected refugees expand hunger strike


At 4:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In France, for example, the Afghans might well have counted their stay in St Patrick’s in minutes not days."

I seriously doubt that -- France is one of the more accommodating EU nations. For example, most of the "immigrants" who died in the Paris hotel fires were actually illegals being put up by the French government. Also, recall that last Fall the French were reluctant to use force to control the rioting in Paris and other cities, and no doubt will not deport very many of the numerous offenders who ought to be deported for their participation.


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