An interview with Fix Our Education UCD: “What we’re lobbying for now is for the HEI to intervene”

An interview with Fix Our Education UCD: “What we’re lobbying for now is for the HEI to intervene”

STAND’s Cedric spoke to Ruairi Power from Fix Our Education UCD about the actions that the student group is taking to reduce  inequalities on UCD campus.

 

Young people show compassion with @letshelpdirectprovision

When Louisamay Hanrahan set-up an initiative for people to donate goods to others during lockdown, she never expected the huge amount of online support she would receive from young people in Ireland.

#SecondHandSeptember: A Sustainable Fashion Story with @Traashion

WE’RE HALFWAY THROUGH #SECONDHANDSEPTEMBER! 👕👗👖 Are you sticking to your commitments? We chat with the amazing Instagram slow fashion advocate Alba Mullen, aka @traashion, whose words and wisdom will inspire you on your own journey to sustainable fashion.

Friendship SPO: ‘Nothing will happen if voices from the field aren’t put on a plateau’

Runa Khan, Founder & Executive Director of Friendship SPO talked to us ahead of this year’s STAND Student Festival about climate migration and Friendship’s work in empowering at-risk communities who face environmental and human rights issues.

Veghuns – Advice from the Irish Vegan Girls!

Veghuns, the girls navigating their way through plant-based eating in Dublin, Ireland and abroad. We chat with Kate to discover the benefits of veganism and her advice for anyone looking to make the lifestyle change.

Pressure From Local Communities Stops Deportation Orders

Pressure From Local Communities Stops Deportation Orders

Michael Usiku, a student of Carlow College, is the latest example in a string of deportation orders delayed as a result of pressure from local communities. Michael, a Malawian national, received a deportation order in December 2019 after failing to provide proof of study in time for a renewal of his student visa. This failure was partially due to the fact that the deadline set by the Irish National Immigration Service (INIS) was several months before Carlow College sent letters of enrolment. As a result, Michael’s student visa was not renewed and he was ordered to leave the country.

The deportation order came while Michael was sitting his exams, and ordered Michael to leave the country by December 29. In response to the order, a number of Carlow College staff and students mobilised, as well as several civil society organisations. A group of approximately 25 protesters met at the steps of the Department of Justice on December 18, in order to pressure the Minister for Justice into stopping the deportation and granting Michael a visa to complete his education. This may have been instrumental in leading to the delay of the deportation order for 10 days as his deadline approached, at which point he was required to sign in with the INIS. Following this sign-in, the order was delayed again until the 20 February, at which point he must sign in with the INIS again, according to Adam Kane, President of Carlow College Students’ Union.

This case is one in a string of cases where local communities, and schools in particular, have been instrumental in the delay or revocation of deportation orders. The case of Eric Zhi Ying Mei Xue, a child who was born in Ireland to a Chinese national, gained significant media attention around the same time as Michael’s case. In Eric’s case, his primary school mobilized support for their pupil, who had never been to China, and who would have limited access to services in China such as health and education, as he is not a Chinese citizen.

Although there are differences between these cases, in particular the length of stay, and the depth of integration into Irish society, they also show similarities. One of these is the role of local communities, and in particular of schools in mobilizing support, and the capacity of this support to have a significant influence on the decisions of the INIS and the Department of Justice. Another similarity appears to be the discomfort shown with deportation, an understandable unease in a traditional country of emigration. This discomfort is particularly evident around children born in Ireland to parents who have no right to residence. This phenomenon follows the passing of the referendum in 2004 that revoked the ius soli rule whereby those born on Irish soil automatically become Irish citizens. Since then, there have been multiple cases of children who are born and raised in Ireland, who nonetheless have no right to Irish citizenship. The discomfort with this situation is clear from the level of community mobilisation for those who have regular contact with these children, although this policy is by no means unusual internationally.

Ireland is not the first country to learn the hard way how difficult it is to forcibly return individuals who have built connections in the country. The Netherlands, which used to adopt a dispersal policy for asylum seekers realised that this led to the integration of asylum seekers into the small villages and towns to which they were sent. This made deportation very difficult, with communities staunchly protesting deportation orders. As a result, the Netherlands had to reverse this policy, and now mainly keeps asylum seekers in housing centres close to big cities in an effort to prevent integration into the local community. 

While many countries have been dealing with sensitive situations of migration and deportation for many years, it is a relatively new phenomenon for Ireland. Ireland’s immigrant population has quadrupled since 1990, when the Celtic Tiger changed Ireland’s economic and employment landscape. However, with a greater ability to control our borders, due to relative geographic isolation, cases like those currently being experienced have been rare. Nonetheless, Ireland has increasingly become a country of destination for both EU and non-EU migrants, likely thanks to a strong demand for both high-skilled and low-skilled labour, and a continuously strong economy. The significant shift in Ireland’s migration profile in a very short period of time means that both our institutions and our society are ill-prepared to approach deportation and return, one of the most controversial issues in migration regulation. Another theme arising from these recent cases is that of discomfort with the idea of children born and raised in Ireland who have no right to Irish citizenship. Prior to the 2004 referendum that revoked the right, being born in Ireland automatically entitled children to Irish citizenship. While 79% of voters cast their vote in favour of this revocation, a Behaviour and Attitudes poll for the Sunday Times taken after the publicity garnered by Eric Zhi Ying Mei Xue’s situation showed that around 71% of those polled were in favour of granting this right to automatic citizenship. With increasing immigration and an increasing realisation of the reality of not providing birthright citizenship, it may be time for the Irish population to revisit this question, one of many challenging debates to be had in a changing country.  

Photo by marctasman, Wikimedia commons

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Voices from Direct Provision: An Online Conference 2020

On 27 September, the organisation Abolish Direct Provision Ireland (ADPI) held an online conference titled “Voices from Direct Provision.” The purpose of the event, which was chaired by ADPI volunteer Louise, was to raise awareness about the adversity experienced by asylum seekers and provide a platform to share their stories.

UK and Refugees: Between Dehumanisation and Demonisation

Detached reporting of asylum crossings in the English Channel resemble “a sports commentator watching a boat race or a tour operator on a whale watching tour.” Dehumanising refugees is is a long-standing problem within UK journalism that is seeping into politics and impacting the lives of those seeking international protection.

STAND Student Podcast: Democratic Republic of Congo Series Episode 5

Welcome to episode 5 of our new podcast series on the Democratic Republic of Congo. Listen in to learn more about the history of the DRC – an intricate web of events that seem to have remained in the shadows.

Devoid of Empathy: Greece’s Refugee Policy

The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing more inhumane Greek refugee policies. The revelation by the New York Times that Greece has secretly expelled more than 1,000 asylum seekers, abandoning many of them on inflatable life rafts in the Aegean Sea, is one example of this disturbing trend. Meanwhile, refugees are being locked inside Oinofyta refugee camp while Greece welcomes tourists and allows them to roam freely.

Friendship SPO: ‘Nothing will happen if voices from the field aren’t put on a plateau’

Runa Khan, Founder & Executive Director of Friendship SPO talked to us ahead of this year’s STAND Student Festival about climate migration and Friendship’s work in empowering at-risk communities who face environmental and human rights issues.

STAND Student Podcast: Democratic Republic of Congo Series Episode 4

Welcome to episode 4 of our new podcast series on the Democratic Republic of Congo. Listen in to learn more about the history of the DRC – an intricate web of events that seem to have remained in the shadows.

Decolonising education

Decolonising education

Universities have long been seen as places of open discourse, championing the pursuit of knowledge above all else. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that college campuses have been the incubators for one of the most fascinating – and successful – academic movements of recent years: the campaign for the decolonisation of knowledge.

Aims
Simply put, the decolonisation movement aims to address the overwhelming lack of discussion around the impacts of colonialism in universities around the world. While their aims are varied and nuanced, two of the main goals championed by students and academics alike include the removal of monuments or institutional totems celebrating links to imperialism and racism, as well as re-evaluating the Euro-centric bias of many university departments.

The need for decolonisation
While to some, the arguments for decolonisation may seem nebulous and abstract, outdated curricula and colonial erasure can have real consequences. Research conducted in 2014 found that white British students were 16 per cent more likely than students of colour to graduate with a first or 2:1 degree. In analysing such attainment gaps through interviews with BME students, Britain’s Higher Education Academy found overwhelming evidence that universities were not doing enough to help students integrate during their higher education experience. Further research has found that a third of students feel that their educational environment leaves no room for their personal perspective, with some respondents explicitly citing the Euro-centric content of their reading lists.

Of course, there are many factors which contribute to attainment gaps and educational disadvantage, but the evidence suggests that decolonisation of campuses could at least go some way towards reducing these disparities.

Origins of the movement
Many associate the decolonisation movement specifically with African universities, after all, the University of Cape Town saw the inception of the original Rhodes Must Fall movement. This campaign, which sparked myriad protests throughout South Africa, saw students work towards the removal of a statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes. Even now, African universities seem to lead the way in diverse education, with the recently opened African Leadership College in Mauritius building its social sciences curriculum entirely around a platform of decolonisation.

Expansion
But the movement is by no means limited to Africa. In the UK, students have challenged their lecturers to engage with the colonial past their institutions were built upon. Oxford famously had its own Rhodes Must Fall protests, and in Cambridge, efforts are being made to include postcolonial analysis in the teaching of sciences,and classics.

Outside of Oxbridge, The National Union of Students’ Liberate My Curriculum movement has garnered the support of universities throughout the UK, from Reading and Brighton Universities to LSE. Edinburgh University, meanwhile, has committed itself to encouraging an attitude of colonial interrogation throughout its teaching.

Wake-up call
Further movements, such as the Reclaim Harvard Law Campaign or the Malaysian Multiversity Group, which organises regular conferences to discuss decolonisation and the commodification of knowledge, show that the decolonisation campaign is quickly becoming an international movement.

As campuses become increasingly commercialised, and issues such as access to education continue, the decolonisation movement acts as a welcome wake-up call, reminding us of the history of interrogation, analysis and intellectual exploration upon which universities pride themselves.

 

Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Smells like teen spirit

Smells like teen spirit

Last month almost 10,000 young people from across Europe were hosted at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, for YoFest and the third annual European Youth Event, to debate issues affecting young people. In this two part series, Ellen Butler looks at the discussion on legalising drugs.

A debate at the EYE asked is it time considered the decriminalisation of marijuana? The panel included voices from both sides with French psychiatrist, Redwan Maatoug; Lucas Nilsson, director of Nocturum; and Kenzi Riboulet Zemouli, head of research at FAAAT (For Alternative Approaches to Addiction – think & do tank).

Social exclusion and development
Young people are too ill-informed to take drugs, or so said prohibitionist, Maatoug. He argued that 15 year olds do not have the necessary information on the impact of drugs on mind and body. He turned to the psychiatric effect of cannabis, claiming that, with prolonged use, most users develop a form of schizophrenia.

Nilsson corroborated, dubbing cannabis “the drug that makes people close the door on society.” He linked its use with an increase in mental health problems, and finding that is mainly used by younger members of society. Zemouli instead claimed that those who suffer mental health problems after drug use are already predisposed to mental illness; “drugs do not create mental illnesses”. Maatoug argued that rules are not made to be broken and it is in the interest of the wellbeing of everybody that prohibition legislation is upheld and respected. Both he and Nilsson argued that drug usage distracts young people from their social lives and vital social development, which can only be reached by going out and meeting people.

Market for drugs
We already marketise alcohol and the discussion asks what it so different with other drugs? 20 percent of alcohol consumers have a problematic relationship with the substance, according to Nilsson. Despite restrictions on alcohol, it still causes major health and societal issues. He worries that restrictions on drugs will simply not work, judging by large numbers of underage drinkers. Due to political lobbying by large companies within the alcohol industry, alcohol is the only product in the EU that does not have its ingredients listed on its packaging, according to Nilsson. He argued that marketising drugs and letting companies make a profit, will make it much more difficult to regulate the market properly and protect the consumer.

 

Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash

Career knowhow: Senator Ivana Bacik

Career knowhow: Senator Ivana Bacik

Every Month, STAND brings you a quick fire Q&A from people who work in NGOs, with government or in community projects.
First up is Labour Senator Ivana Bacik, a qualified Barrister and senior lecturer in law at Trinity College Dublin. While she was President of TCD Students’ Union in 1989, the union was brought to court for providing information on how to access abortion.

 

What do you love most about your job?
Being able to make a contribution to changing the law.

What do you dislike most?
The long hours and being away from my family.

How did you get into this area?
I was active in politics as a student because I felt so strongly about the need to make Ireland more equal, especially for women and girls; and I stayed active as an adult and ran for election to the Seanad first in 1997. I was elected a Senator in 2007 and re-elected again in 2011 and 2016.

What advice would you give to students who want to work in this area?
If you feel strongly about political issues and want to make a change, then you should get active in politics either through campaign groups or a political party!

 

Image William Murphy via Flickr.

International Women’s Week at Trinity College Dublin

International Women’s Week at Trinity College Dublin

Trinity made headlines last week with many students and staff members protesting the incoming €450 fees to sit supplemental examinations. However, amongst all of the uproar, the college community still found the time to celebrate International Women’s Day. The Students’ Union, in conjunction with a variety of student-run societies, organised a programme of events which ran throughout the week.

Repeal
The week placed a huge amount of focus, on repealing the eighth amendment, an issue which the Student’s Union has been mandated to endorse. Tuesday was ‘Repeal Day’, which encouraged open discussion and education about repealing the eighth amendment. The highlight of the day was ‘Canvassing Training’ hosted by Trinity’s own Repeal Committee, with a view to preparing for the referendum which will take place in May of this year. On Thursday, International Women’s Day, many Trinity students also marched in Dublin as part of the March for Repeal.

Sexism
One of most successful events of the week was a workshop on ‘Confronting Sexism’ with Trinity Women in STEM. the purpose of the workshop was to discuss and challenge the predominance of casual sexism in today’s world: whether that’s in the workplace, in college, or even in informal settings. We were each split into groups and discussed this widespread form of sexism and the actions we can take to stop it happening. This was a somewhat more low-key event than some of the others which took place during the week but it was one of the most effective as it encouraged participants to reflect on ingrained societal sexist behaviours and attitudes that many of us don’t even notice in our everyday lives.

DJs
On a more light-hearted note, Thursday night saw an all-female DJ session hosted in the student bar, The Pav, called ‘All Gals on Deck’. This provided a perfect setting for many to relax after a long week or warm up after the March for Repeal, while promoting incredibly talented female artists. These artist are often overlooked in favour of their male counterparts, in the hugely male dominated world of dj-ing.

Overall the week was a great success despite a lack of events focusing on women in other parts of the world. It is important to celebrate the beautiful diversity and uniqueness of all women, no matter what part of the world they were born into. However, celebrating and acknowledging the equality of the women in our own college community is a great place to start.

 

Photo courtesy of Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.