State guilty of ethnic profiling, says report

ETHNIC profiling, which is a form of racial discrimination, is being facilitated by the Irish state, a report by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) has found.

Singled Out, finds that Irish immigration law breaches European and International human rights law and gives shocking accounts of the treatment of black and ethnic minority communities during police, immigration or security checks.

According to the MRCI, Irish citizens are not required to carry ID, yet Irish immigration legislation states that “non nationals” have to present ID on demand. However, a High Court ruling last Friday deemed this unconstitutional.

MRCI director Siobhán O’Donoghue said gardaí and immigration officers are clearly making judgments on who to ask for ID on the basis of their colour, accent and appearance and this is recognised internationally as discriminatory.

The report consists of field and observation work which identified that black and members of ethnic minority communities were the focus of discriminatory checks on trains, buses and on the street.

One of the cases highlighted in the report told the story of a Nigerian man who was living in Ireland for seven years when he experienced ethnic profiling.

“Akoni” was living in Belfast with his family and travelled regularly across the border to the Republic with work. He was travelling on the train one day to do some shopping in Dublin when two gardaí got on the train at Dundalk and asked him for identification. He showed them a number of pieces of identification — a British driving license, an electoral card with photograph, a staff ID card with photograph and bank and credit cards.

However, the gardaí insisted if he could not show his passport, he would be removed from the train.

He tried to explain he was making a short trip to Dublin to do some shopping and would return on the 13.20 train back to Belfast. Irish people who knew Akoni stepped in to vouch for him but were ignored.

“The immigration officers radioed for reinforcement and in no time about four to six more gardaí came and dragged me out of the train like a criminal,” he said.

“I was struggling with them and they dragged me through the platform to their waiting van and took me to their station. I was stunned and shocked for the treatment, I felt embarrassed. It was pure racial discrimination.”

At the time of going to press, gardaí had not responded to the Irish Examiner regarding these allegations.

Although this incident took place a few years ago, Akoni still feels traumatised by the whole experience. He also expresses distrust of gardaí as a result.

“I would have to think twice before going to them, because of their attitude to black people,” he said.

The MRCI warned ethnic profiling only serves to diminish the capacity of the gardaí to do their job well and checks and inspections should only be done on the basis of “reasonable suspicion” and not on the colour of a person’s skin, accent or appearance.

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