News/Ireland: The second prong of attack - The `Trafficking' Bill

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Subject: News/Ireland: The second prong of attack - The `Trafficking' Bill
From: A. Jordan (annj@hrlawgroup.org)
Date: Mon Oct 25 1999 - 13:28:48 EDT


fyi, the irish bill is really an anti-smuggling law, erroneously titled.

Ann Jordan
Director, Initiative Against Trafficking in Persons
International Human Rights Law Group
1200 18th St., NW
Washington, DC 20036
P:202-822-4600
F:202-822-4606
www.hrlawgroup.org

Edited/Distributed by HURINet - The Human Rights Information Network
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An Phoblacht/Republican News 7 Thursday 22 July 1999

The second prong of attack - The `Trafficking' Bill

In the second part of a report on the treatment of refugees
and asylum seekers in Ireland and the EU, Rsismn De Rosa
examines the pending Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill,
1999, and highlights examples of abuses of refugees in
Europe and here in Ireland.

The Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill, 1999, is another
Bill queuing for time before the Oireachtas. It is the other
prong of what many fear to be the Department of Justice's
approach to the whole question of refugees - stop them
coming here in the first place.

If the Immigration Bill (see last week's An Phoblacht) is to
get rid of refugees, the Trafficking Bill is to stop them
ever being admitted here.

The stated purpose of the Bill is, of course, to protect
asylum-seekers from unscrupulous traffickers, who often can
hold refugees and their families to ransom and impose
terrible conditions during transportation.

As Vanya Harte of the National Federation of Campaigns
Against Racism points out though:

``The experience in other EU states has shown that, far from
decreasing the extent of trafficking, such laws result in
traffickers putting immigrants at great risk, even to the
point of sacrificing lives in an attempt to avoid stiffer
penalties.''

The Bill criminalises the transporters of asylum seekers to
Ireland, imposing an unlimited fine, jail terms of up to 10
years, and/or forfeiture of vehicle (ship, truck, aircraft
or other vehicle) with its equipment.

The offence applies to acts done or omissions made outside,
as well as inside the 26-County state. The Bill applies to
`illegal immigrants', who are defined in the Bill as a
non-national who seeks to enter, or enters the state
unlawfully. Even if the immigrant is granted refugee status
in the final outcome, the person who facilitated their entry
has still committed an offence.

And how can any refugee go about getting travel
documentation and visas to enter this country legally? And
how can anyone apply for asylum unless they were first to
arrive in Ireland?

The Bill, when passed, will certainly ensure that few, if
any, refugees end up applying for asylum here. No airline or
ship is likely to allow amongst their passengers, people
who, once arrived in Ireland, will be illegal immigrants,
and therefore cause of a substantial fine or confiscation of
the vehicle and or its equipment. The airlines will pursue
the practice already well established for entry to other
countries, of checking visa documentation prior to
embarkation.

The recent experience of Polish backpackers who were
detained at Dublin Airport and not allowed to holiday in
this country is an indication of how far immigration
authorities at Dublin Airport have gone.

Non-nationals, who are without visas at the point of entry -
irrespective of whether or not they wish to apply for asylum
- are already illegal immigrants and will not be allowed to
`land' at all. That is the design. To stop them ever coming
here in the first place.

Forcible Deportations in Europe to maintain `Fortress
Europe'.

The policy of forced deportations from European states has
led to a truly horrific pattern of death amongst refugees
and people seeking asylum.

Many have died trying to escape to a safe country, forced by
such legislation as Ireland is about to introduce through
the Illegal Immigrant Trafficking Bill to take appalling
risks. These include hiding in cramped, locked containers,
without air, water, or food, or drowning whilst attempting
to jump a boat or escape detention in the place they seek
asylum.

Many have committed suicide when refused asylum, knowing
that they faced deportation back to jail and torture. There
have been many suicides amongst asylum seekers who are held
in detention centres for months in appalling conditions of
brutality (see box below on detention centres in one EU
member state).

An internet site at (http://www/xs4all.nl/-united) lists
some 600 refugees who have died, between 1993 and February
1998, in EU countries.

Each death is reputably sourced. Some have no name. They are
simply refugees from outside of the EU. It makes appalling
reading.

A few of these deaths have hit the headlines recently. Only
a few.

Some deportations

On 28 May, a 30-year-old Sudanese asylum seeker, Amir Ageeb,
died after a struggle with German police forcing him onto a
Lufthansa flight to Cairo.

Amir had been bound hand and foot and forced to wear a
motorcycle helmet. Border police forcibly held Amir down in
his seat. Shortly after the plane took off, it was noticed
that Amir had stopped breathing. Amir was dead by the time
the plane made an emergency landing at Frankfurt Airport.

As a result of the outcry following Amir's death, all
deportations have been temporarily suspended. However many
non-EU nationals, most of whom are detained in German jails,
have not been released and they await deportation.

On May Day, this year, a Nigerian asylum seeker, Marcus
Omafuma, died during deportation from Austria to Bulgaria.
Marcus had been bundled onto a Balkan Air flight in chains
with his mouth sealed with gummed tape. The ministry in
Vienna subsequently claimed that he had died because he put
up ``heavy resistance'' on the plane.

Only last September, Semira Adamu, a 20-year-old Nigerian,
was forced onto a plane to Togo. She died of a brain
haemorrhage caused by asphyxiation resulting from a pillow
being placed over her face to subdue her protest. Semira had
been forced in Nigeria to marry a 65-year-old man who
already had three wives. He was known to be violent and had
already beaten a fourth wife so badly that she died of her
injuries. Semira's death occurred in the fifth attempt of
the Belgian authorities to deport her back to Nigeria (see
below).

Action by Airline Employees

In some European countries, the death of a deportee has led
to temporary suspension of deportations. In other cases,
airlines have refused to transport deportees, as with
Belgium's Sabena Airlines. But in general, the response is
the same as the experience in Austria, where it is proposed
that the anti-riot police, the WEGA, will be used to carry
out deportations.

Ireland's Immigration Bill does not state that such
treatment of deportees is illegal nor that those guards or
immigration officials concerned will be prosecuted. The Bill
merely states that resisting deportation is a felony and
will be liable to a fine not exceeding #1,500 or to
imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year.

However, the Bill adds that any person who has been excluded
from the state, who has been arrested and detained, may be
placed on a ship, train, road vehicle or aircraft, by a
member of the Garda Smochana. They shall be deemed in lawful
custody whilst so detained and until the carrier leaves the
state. The person in charge of that carrier shall, at the
instigation of a garda or immigration officer, take a person
to be deported on board, and shall accommodate and maintain
them during the journey.

It is not every carrier that will appreciate such
interference with their passenger lists nor every employee
who would be willing to take an active or passive part in
the sort of forcible deportations from EU countries which
have, in too many cases, resulted in the deaths of people
who vainly sought asylum in the `safety' of the EU.

Conditions for refugees detained in Belgium

Semira Adamu was held in a Belgian refugee detention centre
before her forcible deportation and death on 21 July 1998.
She died on the fifth attempt by the Belgian authorities to
deport her. Five thousand people attended Semira's funeral.
As a result, the Belgian national carrier, Sabena Airlines,
refused to carry any more deportees.

An interview with a friend of Semira's describes conditions
in the detention centres where refugees are held whilst
their application for asylum are considered:

``There are isolation cells for anyone resisting
deportation. Straitjackets are used Children are issued with
valium if they are nervous. At both Centre 127 and Vottem
there are double gates, six metres high, and between the
gates security dogs roam. There is razor wire over the
gates.

``Violence directed at people who refuse to be deported is
constant. Racism is prevalent in the centres, both during
deportation attempts and in the entire process of
asylum-seeking. People are beaten, women are arbitrarily
handcuffed or ankle-cuffed. People are left for days in
isolation cells. Children are beaten up and people are tied
to chairs or in bags so they can't move.

``Asylum seekers are brought to the plane, usually
handcuffed, and sometimes with their mouths bound with tape
so they can't scream as they are put on board.''

Belgium is a member of the European Union.

The EU is not only committed to upholding the UN 1951
Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, but also to
the principle of non-refoulement, (that refugees should not
be deported to countries where they may be persecuted). The
EU is also officially committed to the standardisation of
the treatment of refugees across member states.

Illegal garda deportation - stopped by injunction

Ekundoyo is a 29-year-old refugee from Nigeria who escaped
from jail and fled to Ireland. Last week, he was given a
permit of residence, to the delight of all who have met him.

But this only happened as a result of the prompt action of
the National Federation of Campaigns Against Racism and the
Nigerian Asylum Association (NAA), who stopped his illegal
deportation by Irish authorities at the eleventh hour by
obtaining a court injunction. Ekundoyo's appeal was still
pending when gardam illegally removed him to the airport to
put him on a plane.

Ekundoyo's first application for asylum was rejected. He
appealed the decision and was waiting for determination. He
went to the Department of Justice to get his identification
card renewed. At the department he was taken to a room where
two gardam told him that his deportation papers had been
processed and that he was being returned to Belgium. They
took him to Mountjoy Prison, where he was detained. He
contacted the NAA.

A report of what happened appeared in several papers. One
description reads:

``The police arrived a day before his deportation was
scheduled and he was brought directly to the airport,
without even being allowed to call by to where he stayed to
collect his belongings. In protest, Ekundoyo took of his
shirt. He was handcuffed. When he started to scream, his
shirt was stuffed in his mouth.

``He says he was pushed to the ground. He was thumped and
called a black bastard. He was struggling on his way across
the tarmac to the plane when one of the crew took the
initiative, telling the police that he would not be allowed
onto the plane. In response, the four officers involved
picked him up bodily, carried him forcibly through the
airport and took him back to Mountjoy.''

Many people who work in the airlines might be very reluctant
to aid or abet deportation of refugees, but they may feel
unable to act for fear of being in breach of contract with
their employer. No contract, however, requires an employee
to perpetrate or aid to perpetration of an illegal act.

There is no question that here was an attempted and flagrant
abuse of the rights of a refugee. Had it not been for the
swift action of the refugee groups in seeking an injunction
and the stand of the crew member, an entirely illegal
deportation would have taken place. No one would have known
anything about it. Ekundoyo himself just another statistic
on a shameful list of human degradation and abuse. All in
aid of maintaining a racially pure and white `Fortress
Europe'.

Is this what we want?


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