Racism is a major issue for international students and academics in Ireland, ICOS event hears
Irish Council for International Students calls for urgent action to tackle racism.
“Racism is an issue that affects many international students studying in Ireland, as well as staff in colleges. It is crucial that adequate supports for those who experience racism are provided, and that effective legislation to address the issue is introduced. That’s according to Executive Director of the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS), Laura Harmon, who spoke at ‘Speak Out Against Racism’, an event hosted by the organisation today (17.11.22).
Research conducted by ICOS in 2021 found that 40% of international students have witnessed or experienced racism in Ireland, with only 5% reporting it to the Gardaí.
Ms Harmon continued: “We are very concerned about the high instance of experiences of racism, most of which go unreported. ICOS is calling for the national action plan against racism to be prioritised by the government, as well as for more supports for colleges to develop strategies, training and clear reporting procedures for those who experience racism.’’
The event, hosted by ICOS to mark International Students’ Day today, heard from speakers from academia and civil society organisations. Chairing the event, Head of Department and Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Islam at University College Cork, Dr Amanullah De Sondy, said: ‘‘Diversity allows us to learn something different from each other. It enriches education at all levels. We must empower this interaction by listening to minority voices who are discriminated against and strengthen our institutional structures for minorities to feel safe and strong. The time is now to have critical conversations on the realities of racism in Ireland.’’
Professor of Information and Communication Studies at University College Dublin, Kalpana Shankar, who was recently promoted to the position of full professor and is the first woman of colour to hold this position in an Irish university, said: ‘‘The first step in speaking out against racism is acknowledging that it exists. Speaking out means understanding that it's not a new problem to Ireland, calling it out when we see it, and most of all, critiquing the very institutions that perpetuate it – our institutions of healthcare, education, government, and the public sphere.’’
International human right lawyer and policy lead at the Irish Network Against Racism, Patricia Munatsi noted that racism is a persistent problem facing minorities in all aspects of life, and that there is a risk of it becoming entrenched intergenerationally. She said: “Now is the time for action in addressing racism, in its violent manifestations, in discriminatory patterns, and at its systemic roots. We need the government to step up and show leadership. We urgently need hate crime legislation so that all minorities can feel safe. At the same time, we also need a comprehensive national action plan against racism across all aspects of life in Ireland, so that we can tackle racism systemically.’’
PhD researcher at Trinity College Dublin, Shaakya Vembar said: “The spectre of racism follows people of colour around in the most insidious ways – particularly in practices couched in the language of 'diplomacy' such as visa, travel, and work restrictions. Bureaucracy has done an excellent job in both mystifying and justifying the centuries-old desire to segregate the oppressed from the oppressors.”
At the event, ICOS officially launched an online survey, designed to further investigate the scope and nature of racism experienced by international students in Ireland.