By Meghan Nosal
A pro-immigrant group has proposed a manifesto aimed at engaging immigrants and minority groups ahead of the pending General Election.
That was the main message from a panel addressing participants at a recent seminar hosted by the New Communities Partnership (NCP), which invited Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote UK as its keynote speaker.
In his speech, Woolley said it’s not about just asking for justice, but also politically empowering ethnic minorities. If candidates want minority votes, he said, then candidates must address the groups’ demands for social and racial justice.
“We can make demands through the ballot box,” he added. “We must give them a reason to vote.”
Woolley – whose organisation encourages political education, participation and representation as well as the promotion of equality and human rights in the UK – also said immigrant voters should be non-partisan and consider a political party that addresses health, education, and jobs.
“It’s about the issues and it’s about the policies,” he said. “All our skin-folk are not our kinfolk.”
Whooley noted that electorates are voting for a place where they can be respected and cared about, and as such there needs to be a candidate that looks past the hijab and skin colour because “we face racism for not being white”.
Also speaking at the event was Anca Lupu, general manager of the NCP, and Luke Bukha Kasuwanga of the Anti-Racism Network, who said ethnic minority groups “have to be visible and push people to register”.
Part of the NCP’s strategy includes voting for the right candidate that will work for the immigrant community. “Just because I am part of the black community does not mean I will vote for you,” said Kasuwanga.
Writer and activist Neltah Chadamoyo highlighted the potential gains of minority participation in the upcoming polls.
“There are 300,000 nationalised immigrants in Ireland,” she said. “If 75 per cent of immigrants voted, major Government changes could be accomplished.”
But Chadamoyo recognises that minorities’ voice at the polls is “hampered by the fact that [many] are not citizens” of Ireland.
“We need to be more strategic and choose a support team and be unafraid to stand up and speak for our community,” she added. “We have the brains, we have the capacity, we are not afraid of hard work.
“We are demanding this because we deserve it and we deserve to be treated like we are home, because we are not going.”