New campaign to empower international students in Ireland to call out racism

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ICOS has today unveiled a new campaign to help international students recognise and report incidents of racism they may witness or experience while studying in Ireland.    

The Speak Out Against Racism campaign has been developed by ICOS in response to research it conducted last year that found two-thirds of international students have experienced racism while studying in Ireland*. 

For the new campaign, ICOS has launched a set of resources for international students based here, namely a video explaining why it’s important to speak out against racism; a booklet on what racism is and how to report it, available in English, Spanish and Portuguese; and a dedicated information section on the ICOS website.

The Speak Out Against Racism campaign was launched by ICOS at an event at University College Cork today, opened by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Honore Kamegni, who is the first black councillor ever elected to Cork City Council. 

A panel discussion at the launch event addressed several strands, including highlighting racism in Ireland; showing solidarity with victims of racial discrimination; enhancing understanding of racism; the legislation protecting people from discrimination; and steps to take when faced with racism, including by international students across the country.

Announcing the new campaign, Executive Director of ICOS Laura Harmon, said: “Racism is an issue that must be called out in Ireland. Our research tells us that two thirds of international students studying here will experience or witness racism during their time in the country. Our Speak Out Against Racism campaign aims to raise awareness about what racism is, inform people about their rights and encourage people to report it. Higher education institutions also have a role to play in combatting racism and the Irish Council for International Students looks forward to working with our members across the country on this issue.”

Speaking at the launch event, the chair of the panel discussion, Amanullah De Sondy, who is head of the UCC Study of Religions Department and a globally renowned broadcaster and academic, said: ‘‘Racism affects us all. All our social inequalities are connected. At universities up and down this country, we are making huge strides in effectively strengthening anti-racist campuses with the guidance of the HEA anti-racism principles and race equality initiatives. However, we have a long way to go as we connect anti-racism not just at universities but in wider Irish society. It is important for us all to call out racism, but we know that many don’t for different reasons. This campaign is a huge step in our ‘locked-arms’ resolve to embolden Ireland to be inclusive for all as we live equally, differently and lovingly.’’

Also speaking at the launch event, panel discussion speaker Patricia Munatsi, co-founder of Black Professionals Ireland, said: ‘‘For far too long we have been complacent, but we cannot do that anymore; the stakes are too high, we all have a responsibility to speak out against racism and to do so with the gravitas it requires. With everything that has been happening in Ireland, this campaign is crucial in raising awareness and empowering students to call out against racism when it happens and to report it to authorities. It is an opportunity for us as a society to have an open dialogue about racism. That is the first step to building a truly inclusive and equitable society for all.’’

Speak Out Against Racism Report – Key Findings

The Speak Out Against Racism Report by ICOS was the first of its kind in Ireland to specifically explore the experiences of international students who come to Ireland to study. 428 participants took part in this research and the key findings showed that:

  • 63% of participants reported that they had personally experienced and / or witnessed racism in Ireland, while 37% said they had never witnessed or experienced racism here.
  • Verbal abuse was found to be the most common form of racism experienced by participants.
  • A quarter of all racist incidents occurred on the street. Racism was also widely reported in social settings (pubs, restaurants, nightclubs), in the workplace, and on public transport.
  • Of the 77 participants who said they were studying in higher education, 25 said

they had experienced racism on campus.

  • The main perpetrators of racism were found to be youths and teenagers. Participants also frequently reported racism in the workplace by customers, colleagues, and supervisors, as well as in public and private places involving individuals acting alone, and groups of male adults.
  • Only 10% of people affected by racism reported the incident, with the findings showing that many participants did not report because they did not trust the Gardaí to address racism. Other reasons for not reporting included: not knowing how to make a report, not having enough proof, a fear of the consequences, language barriers, and a belief that nothing would be done. The research also revealed that most participants lacked awareness of their rights under employment and equality rights.
  • Many participants reported being discriminated against for speaking in their native language.

The ICOS Speak Out Against Racism campaign is funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.  

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News type
ICOS Press Release