Ireland’s record on eliminating racial discrimination was criticised by the human rights watchdog today.
The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) demanded the Government do more to protect the rights of asylum seekers, the Traveller community, migrant workers and victims of human trafficking.
Dr Maurice Manning, IHRC president, said: “Ireland is a multi-ethnic country but regrettably racial discrimination is a problem here.
“Effective human rights and equality bodies are required to monitor and combat racial discrimination, the restoration of the resources to carry out this work is essential.”
Launching a report to commemorate Human Rights Day, Dr Manning said Travellers have experienced racial discrimination for generations yet are not recognised as an ethnic minority.
“Not enough good quality halting sites are being provided to the Traveller Community by local authorities,” he said.
“The criminal trespass legislation criminalises trespass on public land in circumstances where public authorities have systematically failed in their statutory obligations to house Traveller families.
“Travellers also continue to achieve poor educational outcomes and are in very poor health compared to the general population.
“Severe cuts in funding to essential services can only compound these problems.”
Elsewhere the IHRC raised concerns about safeguarding the rights of asylum seekers as they try to enter the country and while refugee applications are processed.
Dr Manning said once in the system, people seeking asylum are spending too long waiting for their applications to be processed.
“This needs to be tackled urgently as the long stay in hostels, prohibition on working and social isolation are among the causes of worrying levels of poor mental health among asylum seekers,” he continued.
“The direct provision payment of €19.10 per week, which has remained unchanged since 1999, is wholly inadequate and must be revised upwards even in these straitened times.”
The watchdog also maintained Ireland has insufficient human rights safeguards to protect vulnerable migrant workers and their families, especially those in the hospitality industry, agriculture and women in domestic settings.
Meanwhile Eamonn Mac Aodha, IHRC chief executive, said while 98% of Irish primary schools are under religious patronage, there should be a wider choice for the country’s diverse and changing society.
“It is also clear that legislative and policy changes are required to ensure that people of non-faith and from religious minorities are not deterred from training as teachers or taking up employment as teachers,” he added.
The report has been sent to the United Nations Committee responsible for monitoring Ireland’s record under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It is due to report back on Ireland in February.