Ireland: Afghan asylum seekers hunger strike ended by police

Government scapegoats refugees for poor welfare and lack of housing

The hunger strike and protest by 41 Afghan asylum seekers in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin came to an end last Saturday night after Gardai [Irish police] stormed the Cathedral and removed the men. The men had been threatened to be deported back to Afghanistan, a war-torn, poverty-stricken country, where they feared their lives would be at risk. Their decision to the drastic hunger strike action was an indication of their level of desperation. Last Friday, when the Gardai threatened to storm the cathedral the protesters even threatened to take their own lives.

Throughout last week, the right wing Fianna Fail/PD government and the media waged a campaign of vilification of the men, claiming that they were “blackmailing” the Irish people and that Afghanistan was now a safe country to return to. On Tuesday, of this week, one tabloid newspaper claimed, without providing a shred of evidence that the protest was being directed by members of the former Taliban regime!

This media and politicians’ campaign is linked to their overall attempt to scapegoat refugees and asylum seekers for the chronic under funding of the health service and for the lack of affordable housing. Unfortunately, given that the men were not faced with immediate deportation, this campaign of lies by the capitalist establishment did negatively affect the opinion of many working class people.

School Students against Deportations

Throughout last week, members of the Socialist Party actively campaigned in solidarity with the hunger strikers. Alongside schoolmates of six of the Afghan men Socialist Youth, the youth wing of the Socialist Party, took the initiative in launching ‘School Students against Deportations’. We recognised the crucial role that young people could play in this campaign. This was shown, last year, when a campaign of schoolmates of a deported Nigerian school student, Kunle, forced the government to allow him to return to Ireland. The School Students against Deportations campaign organised a school students’ protest, last Wednesday, at the Cathedral, as well as a school student contingent on last Saturday’s support demonstration, which was organised by supporters of the men. The School Students against Deportations contingent was the liveliest part of the protest.

As the bosses and politicians continues attacks on the rights and conditions of all working class people, they will continue to attempt to deflect the genuine anger of people towards the most vulnerable section of Irish society. We will be the forefront in fighting this disgusting scapegoating of refugees and immigrants, and we will argue for all workers and young people to unite against those who are the cause of the lack of homes, the lack of decent wages and services – the bosses and their political representatives in the Irish government.

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May 2006