AkiDwA Statement on the death of George Floyd and the subsequent debate on race
AkiDwA represents voices of African and migrant women in Ireland. We are saddened by the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many others in America, but we are not surprised. One of the reasons why our organisation was established 19 years ago was due the experiences of racism which our founding members were experiencing at the time, unfortunately the situation remains the same.
We can no longer turn blind eyes to addressing racism. Political will and leadership is needed. Systemic racial injustices and discrimination have been allowed to prevail for centuries, and not just in America. We must look to home, in Ireland and those who do not see the racial inequalities must open their eyes, says Salome Mbugua CEO AkiDwA. The society must acknowledge immigration as a permanent feature in Ireland – 1 in 8 people living here are from a migrant background. People who have been here for many years, raising children, working hard and making up part of the fabric of Irish society. From access to healthcare, education, work and employment to racial harassment, migrants and in particular people of African descent face racism daily and obstacles to accessing services. AkiDwA hears directly from our members stories of direct and indirect discrimination.
Unequal treatment in accessing public services has a direct bearing on the lived experiences and social status of any individual or group. While most frontline and service providers aim to deliver services without prejudice, direct experiences of racism are a reality for many migrant women. This, according to AkiDwA members, can take many different forms, such as the manner and tone used by officials, prejudiced behaviour and sometimes being denied services. In 2017 AkiDwA undertook research on migrant women and healthcare. The research found that there are gendered barriers as well as barriers to migrant women when accessing healthcare services, and migrant women as a group have specific needs within the healthcare system which are currently not being met.
Similarly, barriers to the labour market are felt more acutely by migrant and ethnic minority women. Lack of childcare, poor recognition of foreign qualifications, discrimination in hiring and promotions, and low employer knowledge of work permits all contribute to make finding decent work more difficult for migrant women, in particular women of African descent. Further, when it comes to those seeking international protection, studies and experience shows that work is particularly difficult for them to find. At AkiDwA we work with programme refugees who would have spent time living in refugee camps for years before arriving here, they continue to suffer with trauma, and have language barrier, majority are living at the margin of the society since they may not have engaged in employment or education before. In order for their true integration, a targeted approach is needed to address these barriers to work that they face.
AkiDwA is very concerned about people seeking international protection and the conditions in which they are living. The organisation has published research and voiced the inhuman treatment of women and children living in accommodating centres. The system of Direct Provision has consistently been shown to infringe the rights of residents. Lack of autonomy, lack of privacy and indefinite stays take a toll on the mental health of residents and a lack of vulnerability assessments upon entering the asylum system leave people suffering traumas going without the help they need. The recent Covid-19 health crisis has shown how inappropriate the system of communal living is in maintaining the health of residents. Further, asylum applicants’ right to work without recourse to standard welfare payments is discrimination and has pushed some families back into poverty.
We are reaching the end of the current Integration Strategy and we currently have no national strategy to tackle racism. With political parties in talks to form a new government, now is the time to priorities the most marginalised in society and work to foster a more equal Ireland for all. Any strategies or new policies should be informed by evidence, such as recent migrant integration studies from ESRI, and in consultation with representatives from affected communities to ensure that needs are being met. State must develop hate crime legislation, develop a national action plan to address racism as matter of urgency and phase out direct provision system.
For further reading, AkiDwA submitted a full report to the UN in 2019 detailing the racial discrimination faced by migrant women and women of African descent in Ireland, available here.
Established in 2001, AkiDwA is Ireland’s only national network representing Africans and migrant women. Registered Charity Number 2006341; CHY 17227 Address: Unit 2, Killarney Court, Buckingham Street, Dublin 1
Contacts: Salome Mbugua, AkiDwA Chief Operations 0874150906 or Katie Walker : 01 8349851