March 21st marks the dedicated International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This year has a special focus on eliminating discrimination against those of African descent. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban-Ki-moon has stated that those of African descent continue to suffer from the most pernicious forms of racial discrimination and the effects of the transatlantic slave trade continue to persist today. March 21st to 27th also marks European Week Against Racism.
Closer to home, Ireland’s third and fourth reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination were recently examined. (NGO and civil society shadow reports can be accessed here). The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is made up of individual experts (appointed by the UN General Assembly) who monitor states compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). While Ireland signed CERD in 1968, only in 2000 did it ratify this convention making it applicable upon Ireland at an international level. For a variety of reasons, relating to the Irish Constitution and judicial interpretation, this Convention cannot necessarily be relied upon within domestic judicial/quasi-judicial proceedings. However, Ireland has an obligation under international law to achieve the end results laid down within CERD.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has issued concluding observations which note positive elements of Ireland’s committment to eliminate racial discrimination, as well as concerns and recommendations with regard to Ireland’s committment to non-discrimination on the basis of race. The establishment of a (junior) minister for integration, the establishment of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission and of a Press Council were all regarded as positive developments in Ireland’s respect of Ireland’s committment to CERD. However, there are also concerns with regards to Ireland’s protection of certain CERD rights and the Committee has recommended (amongst other issues) that:
- Ireland examine the cuts it has made to its state funded human rights institutions and ensure that organisations like the Equality Authority, Irish Human Rights Commission (and the now defunct National Consultatative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism);
- To work concretely towards recognising Travellers ethnic identity and implement measures to ensure increased participation by Travellers within all aspects of society;
- Ensure that irregular migrants have access to judicial mechanisms for challenging removal from the state;
- Adopt legislation to prevent racial profiling by state authorities;
- Expedite the asylum determination system and carry out a review of the direct provision system, in the mean time improving living conditions within direct provision accommodation;
- Establishing clear principles upon which family reunification for recognised refugees and other non-EU migrant workers are based upon.
Many of these issues were also highlighted in the Committees concluding observations in 2005. With a new government in place, it is now imperative that these recommendations are examined and clear and detailed advancement of the issues raised are acted upon.