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Report on diversity launched

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JOINING TOGETHER Pictured at the launch are Therese Ruane, Secretary; Brendan Henaghan, Mayor of Castlebar; Mary Robinson, Betty Koinnge, Chairperson; Cllr Gerry Coyle, Cathaoirleach Mayo County Council; Kate Donnelly and Geraldine Mitchell. 
JOINING TOGETHER Pictured at the launch are Therese Ruane, Secretary; Brendan Henaghan, Mayor of Castlebar; Mary Robinson, Betty Koinnge, Chairperson; Cllr Gerry Coyle, Cathaoirleach Mayo County Council; Kate Donnelly and Geraldine Mitchell. 

Report on diversity launched


Claire Egan

A NEW report, launched last week by the Mayo Intercultural Action Group, details the challenges to be met in the area of immigration, integration and service provision in the county, and gives recommendations on how this can be achieved.
The aim of the published research, entitled ‘Building a Diverse Mayo’ and launched last Wednesday at the Welcome Inn, Castlebar, was to profile immigrants in Mayo and identify their direct needs.
The findings also focused on the provisions made by statutory and non-statutory bodies in response to the needs of immigrants. The purpose is to inform and direct actions and initiatives by both statutory and voluntary agencies in Mayo.
The former president of Ireland and UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Mrs Mary Robinson, launched the research document, which will serve as a blueprint for voluntary and statutory organisations within County Mayo.
Furthermore, it is hoped that the recommendations and proposals of the research findings will act as a catalyst for change, prompting the Government to review current immigrant procedures and legislation.
Speaking at the event, Mrs Robinson outlined that the report’s timing was impeccable and came at a juncture in Irish society when there was a paramount need for the nation to ‘re-define and re-examine itself in a European and global context’.
Mrs Robinson outlined the remarkable changes here over the past decade; where once Irish people left to seek work and the prospect of a better life elsewhere, Ireland now finds itself as a ‘receiver’.
“Movement and mobility is now part of humankind and we find ourselves in a situation whereby there is the positive movement of young, vigorous people into our communities. It should be seen as a strength, not as a weakness,” she said.
Cllr Gerry Coyle, Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, echoed the sentiments of the distinguished former president as well as paying tribute to the work of Mayo Intercultural Action Group.
He reminded those in attendance of the vital role of dialogue in facilitating the integration of groups into society.
“There is a need for us all to work together and communicate. It is only in recent years that the huge divide in Northern Ireland is being solved through dialogue. It is possible for us all to co-exist, work and live together in peace,” said Cllr Coyle.

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Reports highlights health care and accommodation as key areas of concern

FINDINGS
Claire Egan



‘BUILDING a Diverse Mayo’ is a comprehensive report outlining the challenges facing the asylum, refugee and immigrant population in Mayo, as well as identifying their needs and how they can best be met.
It also analyses the challenges facing voluntary and non-voluntary organisations as they attempt to respond to the requirements of new ethnic groups in Mayo.
Since 2002, immigration has contributed to a significant overall population increase in the county, with over 10% of it attributed to foreign nationals from 165 countries.
As of 2006 over 84,400 immigrants from new EU accession states are currently living in Ireland. The number of asylum applications plummeted to 2,085 in 2006, following a peak of 11,634 in 2003, the sharp decline due to increased European border security.
A survey of the nationalities within Mayo revealed that the Polish community dominated the migrant populations in Castlebar, Ballina and Belmullet, with over 42%, 47% and 36% respectively. Over 70% of the immigrant population in the county is male with the largest number of migrants between the ages of 26 and 35 years of age, followed by the 18 to 25 years of age category.
According to the MIA research, there are 834 non-nationals in receipt of social welfare allowance here, Nigerian nationals the biggest beneficiaries. There are over 190 asylum seekers in Mayo currently awaiting or appealing refugee applicant hearings.
One of the key criticisms in the report is of the system of ‘Direct Provision’ which is described as ‘de-humanising’. Since May 2002 the Government has implemented a scheme of ‘Dispersal and Direct Provision’, under the Reception and Integration Agency. At present, two hostels are operating in the Mayo region for this purpose – the Old Convent in Ballyhaunis and the Railway Hotel, Kiltimagh. Under current legislation, asylum applicants must reside in such accommodation until their hearing for refugee status takes place.
They are provided with a weekly allowance of €19.10. Anecdotal evidence in the report details cases of individuals residing in hostels for up to two years. Such a practice was described as ‘psychologically damaging to an individual’ and was criticised as a ‘denial of basic human rights’.
The MIA further criticised the practice of ‘Direct Provision’ on the basis that the accommodation was unsuitable for families and that no account was made of ethnic dietary requirements. Furthermore, it recommended that the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform revise the existing system and implement a variety of measures to improve it, including adequate training of hostel staff in ethnic awareness, anti-racism and social care. It also recommended that the excessive monitoring of the movements of asylum seekers should be ended and an independent complaints board should be established.
The provision of adequate health care for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants is another area of grave concern, according to the report. Public Health Nurses outlined the difficulties of treating patients with no fixed abode, while doctors cited a lack of privacy and no previous case history as posing difficulties, in particular for those in asylum centres.
It was found that there was a poor follow-up health check on the part of asylum seekers and refugees. A language barrier was also highlighted as a hindrance to providing an effective health service.
Among the recommendations made were that the HSE and all government departments ensure proper translation services, while appropriate spaces be provided in accommodation hostels for medical visits. Furthermore, extra resources should be allocated to the Mayo Mental Health Services, as well as the Mayo Rape Crisis Centre and the Mayo Women’s Support Services.
Of those surveyed and working in Mayo, it was found that, in general, satisfaction was expressed with working conditions. However, non-national workers need to be provided with greater information regarding workplace legislation and employee rights.

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Robinson outlines the need to embrace new groups

INTERVIEW
Claire Egan

FORMER PRESIDENT Mary Robinson was on home ground last week to celebrate the launch of the Mayo Intercultural Action publication, ‘Building a Diverse Mayo’.
The Welcome Inn was awash with colour and noise as a carnival atmosphere infused the air. A fabulous art display by primary school children, highlighting the importance of interaction and integration, captured the audience’s attention as traditional Irish music floated above the din of chat and banter.
A witty and engaging address by the former first lady lauded the contribution of the Mayo Intercultural Action Group and outlined the importance of viewing the nation in a global context. Robinson, who now heads the Ethical Globalisation Initiative, was effusive in her praise of the research which she described as ‘timely’, as it brought to mind the importance of remembering our past roots in order to appreciate the plight of those who come to Ireland, and in particular Mayo, to seek a new life.
With speeches wrapped up and the crowd dispersing to avail of hot and cold beverages, Mrs Robinson made herself available for further questions from the assembled media.
Speaking to The Mayo News, she said that the research undertaken by the Mayo Intercultural Action Group can act as a catalyst for change and provide a blueprint for other counties to undertake such research.
“The whole tone of the report is excellent; while criticisms are made the focus is on finding a way forward for the local communities, asylum seekers, refugees and the immigrant population,” said Mrs Robinson.
Criticisms have been levelled at the Government in the report, in particular at the proposed Scheme for the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill which sets out to overhaul the current immigration laws, including the creation of residency permits containing bio metric data. Mrs Robinson was impressed with the way such criticisms were made.
“Policy needs to be addressed at all levels. Issues are identified here in a positive manner and it promotes a holistic approach to integration. State policy-makers need to take account of the findings in this review,”  explained Mrs Robinson.
The need to promote greater inclusiveness should, according to Mrs Robinson, start at a younger age and education should be the ‘key’. The arrival of new nationalities to Ireland presents enormous benefits and Mayo should be willing to embrace the ‘vibrancy and vigour of our new ethnic groups’.
Mrs Robinson’s appearance in Castlebar coincided perfectly with her plans to spend Christmas in Pontoon, while in 2007 a gruelling work schedule awaits as she combines her current role with the ethical globalisation initiative with numerous other voluntary commitments.
Chief among her New Year resolutions are to promote the importance of global health and further the cause of those in the Third World, while she also expressed a greater desire to spend more time in Ireland and of course her home place in Mayo.