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2017-11-15 15:15:00 -
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Mariaam Bhatti: Tales of a Domestic Worker

I have been doing some thinking lately in relation to integration initiatives for migrants in Ireland, and noticed that about 20 organisations across the country have benefitted from funding that aims to make Ireland an inclusive country. Most of this funding has come from the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund that outlines integration priorities for the next number of years. It is a great cause, worth taking part in and indeed being embraced.

 

This funding is aimed at things like sports initiatives that help migrants integrate fully into the wider Irish society. Soccer is one method that has always brought together migrant men from all walks of life, crossing the rifts that can sometimes open between different ethnic groups.

 

Such funds are also aimed at improving the pathway to employment, by giving supports where needed for migrants currently unemployed to get ready for the workplace. Asylum seekers are also among those who are benefitting from this funding, and I hope they are made aware of what opportunities are out there for them.

 

However, I have also noticed that most of these programmes are aimed at ‘legal’ migrants. The EU keeps talking about making sure they don’t attract more people to come and live in its member states undocumented. To me, that is very sad, because migrants come in many shapes and forms. If we are going to disregard those that are some of the most vulnerable in our society and push them further to the margins, then what integration are we talking about that leaves some of the most vulnerable behind?

 

Society organises itself without the lines of ‘legal’ or ‘not legal’. People that are considered ‘not legal’ are still a part of our everyday society. They exist. They like soccer or any other sport; they go out dancing; they go to church; they’re on the go in the morning rush or at the school gates to collect their children. They are just like us. So how can we decide to formally exclude them from those initiatives?

 

If we want an Ireland that is far from what countries like France have, with marginalised communities who are citizens but feel far removed from the mainstream, then maybe what we should be doing is including the undocumented.

 

Yes, they have technically broken the laws of the land by entering outside of ‘official’ channels, but they have not stolen from the State — indeed, all would pay tax to the Exchequer via VAT at least – and there should be a way of making good on their status. They are some of our most vulnerable and when they need support, we should be willing to provide it.

Mariaam Bhatti is a member of the Domestic Workers Action Group and Force Labour Action Group of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.

 

 

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