Minority Rights Now ISSUE 11 2013 ISSN2042-3942
How the recession
is affecting ethnic minorities The politics of welfare reform
Austerityâ€™s easy scapegoats
Know Your Rights!
Znaj Swoje Prawa Connaissez Vos Droits
Our Editorial Board
Professor Tomoya Obokata, Keele University
Dr Rory O’Connell, Queen’s University Belfast
Rory O’Connell is Professor of Human Rights and Constitutional Law at the Transitional Justice Institute / School of Law, University of Ulster. He has widely published on human rights, including socio-economic rights, equality and discrimination law. From 2001- 2013 he was a member of the Human Rights Centre, School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast, where he was one of the members of the QUB Budget Analysis Project. Rory tweets on human rights, constitutional law and equality @rjjoconnell.
Tom Obokata is Professor of International Law and Human Rights at Keele University. His expertise lies in human rights aspects of migration, particularly trafficking of human beings. He has extensive research and consultancy experience on the subject and currently advises the Northern Ireland Assembly All Party Group on Human Trafficking.
Dr Rebekah Delsol, Open Society Justice Initiative
Kevin Doherty, Irish Congress of Trade Unions
Dr. Rebekah Delsol coordinates the Open Society Justice Initiative’s project on “Ethnic Profiling.” Rebekah completed her doctoral studies in sociology at the University of Warwick with a thesis examining the utility of the concept of institutional racism in explaining racial disparities in stop and search practice in four police forces in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Kevin Doherty works for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Migrant Workers Support Unit, which provides advice and representation to migrant workers on employment relatd matters, exposes mistreatment of migrant workers, campaigns for legislative reform and improvement in the service to migrant workers from statutory bodies, challenges racist attitudes in the workplace and promotes inclusion.
Phil Mawhinney Phil is the Policy & Participation Officer at Community Action Southwark where he provides policy support to the 2,000 voluntary and community organisations in the ethnically diverse south London borough of Southwark. He was previously a researcher at the race equality think-tank the Runnymede Trust, where he investigated ethnic inequalities among older black and minority ethnic people. Phil is originally from Belfast, stuyding Human Geography at Queen's University and the University of Edinburgh.
Our Editorial Team
Monica Anand, Policy Intern, NICEM
Mark Caffrey, Community Development Officer, NICEM Lizzie Dass, Policy Intern, NICEM
Jolena Flett, Manager, Belfast Migrant Centre
Helena Macormac, Strategic Advocacy Project Manager Paul McGlinchey, Legal Policy Officer, NICEM
Elizabeth Nelson, Parliamentary and Campaigns Officer, NICEM Max Petrushkin, Community Development Officer, NICEM
Sophie Romantzoff, Community Development Officer, NICEM
Eamonn McCann is a well-known freelance journalist and social justice campaigner. He has worked as a journalist for the Sunday World newspaper and contributed to the original In Dublin magazine, among others. He currently writes for the Belfast Telegraph and the Derry Journal, and has for many years written a column for the Dublin-based Hot Press magazine. He is a frequent commentator on the BBC, RTÉ and other broadcast media.
From the Editor
verywhere you look these days there is a reminder of the economic times in which we live. Shops are closing. There are long queues at the Jobs and BeneWits OfWice. There are more food banks, and more people using them. It is practically a given at this stage that those suffering the most are those that are already most vulnerable, those that depend more on government assistance and social welfare – the Wirst things on the chopping block in the Age of Austerity. In thinking about how to examine and (try to) explain how the cuts are affecting Northern Ireland’s minority ethnic communities, we at NICEM were able to come up with far too many examples of hardship for our liking. Therefore, these pages are not an exhaustive representation of how and why our minority ethnic communities are being affected, but rather, offers a lens through which we might begin to
view their experiences. The articles in this edition look at austerity an recession from a variety of angles – immigration, poverty, human rights – among others. We can but hope that together, they offer insight into how our minority communities are experiencing the recession, and what needs to be done so that they do not suffer unfairly.
It is practically a given at this stage that those suffering the most are those that are already most vulnerable, those that depend more on government assistance and social welfare – the first things on the chopping block in the Age of Austerity.
Elizabeth Nelson, Editor
In this Issue
12-13 ..............................................................Tackling poverty and increasing
A local businessman’s perspective on austerity
14-16 ....................................................................Austerity’s easy scapegoats
5 ..................................................................................................Community Focus: 6 .........................................................Know Your Rights! Where to go to get advice
7 ...............................................................................................Emerging Resilience: Migrants’ voices on the impact of recession in the North West
8 ......................................................................Fighting Racism in Times of Austerity
9 ............................................UNISON: supporting our members in austere times
10-11 ...............................................................European Protection on Social Rights and austerity and cuts: Ireland and beyond
economic mobility for people from ethnic minority groups in Northern Ireland
17-19 ...................................................................................The Two Europes 20-21 .................................................................The politics of welfare reform
22...................................................................A Bird’s Eye View of:Westminster 23 ......................................................................A Bird’s Eye View of:Stormont
We’ll be exploring the issue of access to healthcare. There’s been a barrage of news lately about so-called ‘health tourists’ costing the NHS billions, and yet in our experience, migrants, particularly from non-EEA countries, as well as other minorities, face a variety of barriers in accessing the healthcare they need – and to which they are entitled. What are these barriers, how do they affect people everyday, and what we can do to change it?
Minority Rights Now
Qatar World Cup Construction 'will leave 4000 migrant workers dead' In September The Guardian revealed that evidence has emerged that uncovers serious exploitation and abuses of the migrant workforce recruited to fuel the current 'building binge' in Qatar, paving the way for their 2022 World Cup. This summer, Nepalese workers, who account for 40% of migrant labourer in Qatar, died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar, with most dying of heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents. Almost all Nepalese migrant workers have huge debts, accrued in order to pay recruitment agents for their jobs. The obligation to repay these debts, combined with the non-payment of wages, conWiscation of documents and inability of workers to leave their place of work, constitute forced labour, a form of 'modernday slavery' as deWined by the ILO. Already over 30 Nepalese workers are reported to have sought refuge at their embassy in Doha to escape the brutal conditions of their employment. With these appalling conditions, it is of great concern that the country is expected to recruit up to 1.5 million more labourers to build the stadiums, roads, ports and hotels needed for the impending 2022 World Cup.
Met police officer 'has case to answer' in Stuart Lawrence race discrimination claim In January Stuart Lawrence, the brother of Stephen Lawrence, launched a complaint, claiming he was the victim of sustained harassment by Met ofWicers. In the past few years he claims he has been stopped over 25 times, believing it is because of his colour. After asking why he had been stopped, he said one of the ofWicers replied that he had been "naturally suspicious" of him, The Guardian reports. On the 15th October, it was revealed that the Independent Police Complaints Commission has upheld part of his racial discrimination claim, with "one Metropolitan Police Service ofWicer having a case to answer for misconduct in relation to racial discrimination.”
Politicians express shock at minority ethnic victims of domestic violence not being able to access public funds to provide refuge from violent partners A member of the Ballymena Inter-Ethnic forum managed to silence three politicians when she asked a question at a political panel discussion session organized by the All Party Group on Ethnic Minority Communities in October. When the representative asked, “What is the government doing to help women who have experienced domestic violence in ethnic minority communities who have No Recourse to Public Funds?” it transpired that none of the three MLAs on the panel where aware of
the fact that women of insecure immigration status cannot access housing beneWits to pay for refuge when Wleeing a violent partner. Mary Lowe, from the local Women’s Aid said that one quarter of the women and children currently in the Ballymena refuge were from an ethnic minority background and due to current government policy she was dependant on charity to support them. All politicians expressed shock at the scale of the issue and said they were unaware it was even a problem.
The home of a Nigerian born single mother was attacked in late September in the Sandy Row area of Belfast. The incident, reported on the Belfast Telegraph website on the 26th, in which an axe was thrown through the front window of her home, is being treated as a hate crime by police. Within 2 weeks of the above attack, the home of a Maltese man then came under attack when a crossbow was Wired through a window. The man, living off the Donegall Road, believes that this attack, as well as an earlier police raid, on his home, were attempts to intimidate him out of the area. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he claims a black family who were living across the
street, have already Wled due to intimidation. 5 days later, a house was covered with racist slurs in East Belfast. Although vacant, it's believed an African family were due to move into the house now daubed with the slogan 'no blacks'. Local UUP MLA Michael Copeland believes the attack was sparked by a lack of social housing in the area, saying '"there is a great deal of competition for social housing and people who have lived here all their lives feel they're not being given priority." The Belfast Telegraph describes the attacks as ‘sinister’ and the BBCNI News website is encouraging anyone who may have seen anything to contact the police.
A NIHRC report has found that race hate crimes in Northern Ireland are not reaching court because criminal justice agencies are failing to properly identify them. Last year, 470 race hate crimes were reported to the PSNI. Introduced to Stormont on the 15th October, Justice Minister David Ford has responded to the report saying "the criminal justice system is dealing with the manifestation of a problem that extends far beyond our remit. We need to get to the bottom of what incites people to hate people they deem different from them. That is not to excuse the criminal justice system from getting our part right but we are doing something wrong as a society if our focus is solely on dealing with
the aftermath rather than the causes.” As reported in the Belfast Telegraph, he has already outlined a number of strategies he plans to put in place, claiming that “by autumn 2014, we hope to have in place a ‘data capture’ system which will accurately record the Wlow of hate crime cases through the system enabling agencies to identify issues or areas for improvement." He also outlines a new Wive year Victim and Witness Strategy which will create a requirement for victims to be provided with information at key milestones throughout the criminal justice process and a statutory entitlement to make a written personal statement setting out how crime has affected them.
Racist attacks continue in Belfast; 3 in 3 weeks
NI Human Rights Commission Report - Race hate crimes are not being identified & Justice Minister Ford's response.
A local businessmanʼs
perspective on austerity T
he sign outside still says Yambotech is a computer repair store, but inside, it’s a different story. The shelves are stocked with food and drink not found in ‘mainstream’ Belfast supermarkets, though I was nearly fooled by a refrigerator stocked with what I thought was Guinness - actually a non-alcoholic malt drink version. The owner, Abdulai Shapo, says Yambotech has been focusing solely on African and Caribbean food since 2009. The only computers here now, he says, are those that friends ask him to repair. He tells me that it was difWicult even to get started. To rent a shop, you need a guarantor, much like renting an apartment, and a reference. A guarantor is difWicult to get as a migrant, which is why Shapo started in the marketstyle InShops. The InShops only required a reference, rather than a guarantor. He spent two and a half years in the InShops, building up his contacts and networks, which allowed him to get a guarantor to secure his current premises on the Lower Ormeau Road. Without going through this process and following the market model, he says, he may not have been able to get his shop. There is very little support, Shapo feels, for migrants and minorities trying to start a business. At one point, Shapo, an IT graduate, had been running two businesses – the food shop and the computer repair shop. However, he was forced to close the computer repair shop to focus on food. “It was only me doing the computers,” he tells me. “There was too much work to keep up with. This way, with the food store, I can pay others to help me.” Once the African food store was established, Shapo had hoped to re-start the IT business. He even wanted to bring in students from Belfast Metropolitan College for training and work experience. However, when he approached Invest NI for support, he was told he didn’t qualify because he already had an existing business. Their support was only for new entrepreneurs. “I could create employment. I could train people from the BMC,” Shapo tells me. “This way I am actually losing a skill – the community is losing a skill – because I can only do one thing. There is no support. I may not have time to do anything with computers now.” Shapo says the recession is hitting him, like most others. While on the one hand he has very regular customers within with AfroCaribbean community in Belfast, even those customers have been spending less in the market.
“I could create employment. I could train people from the BMC,” Shapo tells me. “This way I am actually losing a skill – the community is losing a skill – because I can only do one thing. There is no support. I may not have time to do anything with computers now.”
“I’ve had to cut down on fresh stock, because I was throwing too much away. “Now, we are more likely to run out of fresh fruit and meat. But I’d rather that than to throw away food people are no longer buying,” says Shapo. I asked him whether he was experiencing any hostility from the local community as a migrant businessperson. “I feel I’m part of the community,” he replied. “The local African community is supporting me by coming everyday. And the rest of the local community has been helping watch over the shop.” Community spirit seems be offering an invaluable piece of mind for the local entrepreneur, offering a nonconventional support network. “The shutters are broken – but the men down the street told me they keep an eye on it, to make sure no one damages it. “They are supporting me.”
Minority Rights Now
Welfare Rights and Advice Know Your Rights
Jolena Flett, Belfast Migrant Centre
ithin Northern Ireland there is provision of free advice through the voluntary and community sector. If you have a query about your welfare rights (including, but not limited to entitlements to beneWits, housing, debt or education) you have the right to free, conWidential and impartial advice to help you access and make informed decisions. The main advice providers are:
• Government departments and agencies: Each government department and agency and all public duties have an obligation to provide free information about the services they provide and how these can be accessed. They are not the same as independent advice providers and often will not be able to help with Willing forms or advising the best course of action. However they should signpost or refer to an organisation that is able to give you this support. They are also obligated to provide interpreters if needed. • Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB): advise people and speak for them in the local communities. There are ofWices based in most localities and the advisors in the CAB are trained to give advice on a wide range of issues and provide signposting and referrals for anything outside their remit. They can provide you with support and guidance as well as form Willing and general queries. • Independent Advice Services: These are services that are not afWiliated with CAB and are generally smaller in scale. They can have advice as their sole purpose or they may be community development organisations that provide advice as part of their work. Advice NI is the umbrella organisation for these groups and information about independent advice providers in your area can be found on their website. These agencies differ in terms of the type and scope of advice they are able to provide, as usually they are charities and will have limited resources. • Law Centre NI: This is a free legal advice service. However they are limited in their capacity and will often take on cases that have particular complexities or have progressed to the point where a solicitor is needed. They do have an advice line that can be used for general guidance and queries. They operate an appointment only system.
It is worth noting that as charities CAB and Independent Advice Centres do not have a statutory duty to provide interpreters.
However, if they are being funded by government/public bodies they are technically required to ensure equality of access to the WHOLE community, including language needs. Advice providers should:
• Keep all your information conWidential • Provide you with a secure environment with which to share your issue and ask questions • Outline what they can and cannot provide to help resolve your situation • Ensure that you understand all your options and what steps you can take • Ask you for permission before proceeding with your case • Keep you updated regularly about the progress of your case • Provide signposting and referral information to other agencies if necessary • Treat you with equality and respect
Advice provided by the Belfast Migrant Centre:
• Provision of welfare rights information and help with beneWit claims, ensuring receipt of entitlement, acting as an advocate and assisting in making informed decisions. • Advice and guidance regarding housing. • Orientation and guidance for people settling in new areas. • Identifying, sourcing and referring to healthcare providers. Helping with GP registrations, dentist, medical cards and Wirst appointments. • Identifying, sourcing and referral to additional training and educational services. Assistance in school enrolment. • Access and referral to employment rights advice. • We operate weekly drop-in clinics during the day and evening to improve accessibility • We have bi-lingual staff and volunteers and provide interpreters when needed
Emerging Resilience – Migrant Voices on Impact of Recession in North West Max Petrushkin, NICEM
hen NICEM was successful in receiving a grant from the Atlantic Philanthropies to open a number of regional ofWices in Northern Ireland, it was immediately evident that North West should be a priority area to focus upon. Thus the Wirst NICEM’s regional ofWice in the North West was launched in December 2012. One of the main objectives of the new project is to conduct two pieces of research in the North West. The Wirst year is coming to a close, and I am happy to share some of the preliminary Windings of our research focusing on the impact of the economic downturn on black and minority ethnic (BME) communities in the North West (Strabane, Derry, Limavady and Coleraine Borough Council areas. The research was conducted with the support of NICEM’s member groups, the Ethnic Minority Empowerment Association of Coleraine and Polish Abroad in Derry/Londonderry. In this article, I will focus on the initial data from Derry/Londonderry speciWically. The vast majority of our respondents in the city were representatives from the Polish community. They represent roughly 40 per cent of all responses, which is broadly consistent with our initial estimates. Interestingly, a large number of the Polish respondents reside on the mainly Protestant Waterside area of L’Derry, perhaps due to close proximity to their employment, better quality and more affordable housing. Thus far, our analysis shows a broad gender balance of respondents, (although marginally there were more female respondents 60 per cent) and most respondents were of working age groups, i.e. “26-35” and “36-45” (over 50 per cent respectively). Over 65 per cent of the respondents stated they were married, and almost 42 per cent of the people said that they had dependents. Nearly 23 per cent of the respondents have a third level educational qualiWication and nearly 21 per cent hold a post-graduate qualiWication. Roughly 81 per cent of the respondents indicated that they speak English. Overwhelmingly, the main reason for coming to L’Derry was employment (over 70 per cent of all respondents), followed by education and family. Nearly 60 per cent of respondents stated they are currently employed; unfortunately, a similar number were concerned about their job security. Interestingly, nearly 30 per cent of the sample have more than one job, but at the same time, over 30 per cent believe that the migrants and minorities are the population
that is mainly affected by the job cuts. Another worrying feature is that 24 per cent of all respondents reported having experienced racism in the workplace, and nearly 30 per cent of all responses identiWied an increase in racist attitude towards BME workers in particular. Nearly 73 per cent of all respondents reported having to cut their essential spend due to the economic downturn. Remarkably, nearly 90 per cent of all respondents stated that they wish to stay in Northern Ireland. However, when asked to specify the expected length of their, only half suggested they wanted to live in L’Derry indeWinitely, whereas the other half were not sure about the length of their stay(and some even blaming bad weather for not wanting to stay indeWinitely). Over 54 per cent of our respondents identiWied unemployment as their biggest concern. Perhaps it should not come as a surprise given that employment is one of the main reasons given for moving to L’Derry in the Wirst place. The other worrying dynamic is the fact that nearly 53 per cent of respondents alluded to difWiculties in accessing public services such as housing, beneWits and education, all of which would become critical should employment cease for any reason.
The Winal question of the survey asked the respondents to identify what kind of impact the economic downturn had on them and surprisingly over 73 per cent of people suggested that the economic downturn had very little impact on them and their families. This could perhaps be seen as a ‘good news’ story during these turbulent economic times. However this brief analysis would suggest that the problems that the BME communities have experienced - racism, persistent difWiculties in accessing public services and constant threat of unemployment - are nothing new to them and maybe much more systemic in their nature. These barriers must be addressed as a matter of urgency. One thing is clear: we need to tackle those issues through building the capacity of the BME and migrant communities to advocate for themselves at the local and national governments levels . This sustainable and community led approach is a key aspect of NICEM North West’s work, and something which we will continue with enthusiasm. I would like to thank all those who participated in our research and invite you to follow our progress as we continue to analyse the responses.
Minority Rights Now
Fighting Racism in Times of Economic Austerity Karen McLaughlin
arlier this year, on the International Day Against Racism, three key institutions across Europe (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (EU FRA), Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe OfWice for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE ODIHR) and the Council of Europe’s European Commission on Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)) came together to send a strong message to European leaders that “austerity is no excuse for racism”. This is something that NICEM has become acutely aware of in recent times, particularly in relation to the impending reform of the welfare system. Despite numerous national, European and international antidiscrimination laws, the draft welfare reform legislation contains the power to treat EEA nationals (persons coming from EU Member States as well as Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland) differently to British/Irish nationals in certain circumstances, speciWically where that person has a disability or caring responsibilities. This also represents multiple discrimination – discrimination based on more than one characteristic (in this case nationality and disability or caring responsibility) - which is an issue that both our legislators and policy-makers have failed to grapple with. The primary concern with such a provision is that it will inevitably lead to more migrants living in destitution. At the moment, EEA nationals often Wind themselves in dire straits due to the delays in the administration of the welfare system and the incorrect decisions of frontline staff,
which are often overturned on appeal. A recent report on poverty and ethnicity in Northern Ireland from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (further explored in this edition) has illustrated that even when migrants have high levels of qualiWications and skills, they are often underemployed or working in low-paid jobs, and this inevitably means that their income will need to be supplemented by beneWits in order to ensure an adequate standard of living. Nevertheless, earlier this year Prime Minister Cameron vowed to “make sure that ours is the toughest country instead of the softest” in terms of migrants’ access to economic, social and cultural rights. In fact, research has shown that often migrants, particularly migrant women, do not take up the beneWits to which they are entitled at the same rate as British/Irish nationals. In addition, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has revealed that the UK is seeking to curb EU migrants’ beneWit entitlements, stating that in doing so "we [the Government] are trying to change the rules so that it can be a much tougher test about the period they [EU citizens] spend here and the commitment they make to the UK." Yet at the same time, the European Commission is engaged in infringement proceedings (a legal process for when the Commission believes a Member State has broken EU law) against the UK in relation to its current residency test – even without the promised crackdowns from Cameron and Cable. More worryingly, in recent months the Coalition Government has taken practically hostile measures, such as negative
advertising campaigns, to deter migrants from Bulgaria and Romania from coming to the UK. These recent developments in relation to welfare reform, coupled with an overhaul of the UK’s immigration laws, clearly illustrates that in this era of austerity, the black and minority ethnic communities living in the UK have become scapegoats. This is something that Janez Lenarcic (OSCE OfWice for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)) had warned against in the joint statement issued on the International Day against Racism. It was also warned that this could lead to the proliferation of hate crimes and racist attacks, which is particularly concerning since a recent report from NICEM revealed that sufWicient measures have not yet been taken in Northern Ireland to safeguard against institutional racism in the criminal justice system. Therefore, it is clear that speciWic measures need to be taken to protect black and minority ethnic communities against social exclusion, in line with the recommendations of the World Conference against Racism in Durban in 2001. Lastly, it is worth recalling UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s statement that racism is a “threat to stability and a grave violation of human rights”. Since stability is something that the UK seems to be actively striving for in this time of economic austerity, the Secretary General’s call to world leaders to “recommit to ending racial discrimination and realising our vision of justice, equality and freedom from fear for all” is particularly worth heeding.
helping our members in times of Austerity Colm Burns, UNISON
UNISON is the largest public sector trade union in the UK. Many of our members from the black and minority ethnic community. We are facing the most critical time for public services in Northern Ireland in the past 30 years. Patricia McKeown, UNISON’s Regional Secretary, said: “Front-line services in health, social care and education are being cut on a daily basis. Plans are being implemented to shed thousands of jobs in the public sector and almost 60,000 jobs have gone in the private sector. “On the Rowntree Minimum Income Standard, 50 per cent of the population do not have a living wage. Our poor health inequality record has not changed. The gap between rich and poor has widened. The equality duty was not applied and no connection was made by government on the vital link between our social and economic health. “UNISON is gearing up to meet the challenge. It is time to make up our minds about the kind of society we want to live in and the steps we are prepared to take to underpin the peace process. “There are more than a million voices in Northern Ireland. UNISON will strive to ensure that our members, and the people, have their voices heard. To do this we are rebuilding and re-engaging from the workplace up and across the entire system. It’s time to get active.” We are seeing a tsunami of issues facing not just our members but society in general. We have research from a variety of sources telling us how much worse off we are, but until you talk to people and hear their stories only then the facts start to make sense. The current climate is very challenging for our members. We are seeing more and more people coming to us for advice on debt and Winancial issues. Our Winancial advice clinics are full, and our workplace reps are helping our members with welfare issues every day. Pamela Dooley, Chairperson of the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (NIC-ICTU), said in her May Day address; “We are here today to demand an end to the roll-back on equality and human rights. Look at the consequences of that roll-back. Our senior citizens are being denied their rights to NHS care and their pension and beneWits are under attack. Women, children, people with disabilities and the growing ranks of the unemployed are under vicious
attack from welfare beneWit cuts proposals. We have children living in extreme poverty at twice the rate of anywhere else on these islands. Our black and ethnic minorities communities are facing growing discrimination, racism and denial of basic rights. Our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual communities are facing growing homophobia, including, disgracefully, from a range of Government Ministers.” UNISON continues to challenge our Government and politicians on the cuts agenda. We are involved in the Empty Purse Campaign and actively involved in the Welfare Reform Action Group. UNISON is building projects that make a difference. We are members of: the Rights in Community Care Group; the Care Homes project (UNISON-led); the Domiciliary Care Project (UNISON-led); the Equality Coalition; the Human Rights Consortium; and the UNSON Solidarity Group, to name a few. We are at the forefront of the national campaign for a Living Wage, as well as campaigning across the country, targeting individual employers and Government to get them to pay the living wage. This work is being led by low-paid workers from our membership - people who truly understand the problem. Close to Wive million people - 20 per cent of the working population of the UK - earn less than a living wage. Recent KPMG research found that in Northern Ireland, 26 per cent of workers are paid less than the living wage, the highest proportion in the UK.
Our ‘Million Voices for Public Services’ campaign targets this issue as it affects our members in the workplace and as users of public services. We are campaigning to save jobs, stop privatisation and stop service cuts. We are also challenging zero hour contracts. We are told that these contracts enable business to be Wlexible, but Wlexibility for a few is no defence against the exploitation of the many. UNISON prides itself on our members’ services and our self-organising groups. These groups are the life blood of the union. Our black and minority ethic group’s work has promoted UNISON’s equality agenda and worked closely with employers to improve relationships and working conditions for all staff. The group has been working on the ‘over qualiWied- undervalued’ campaign focusing in issue of qualiWications and have also ran the highly successful course to help people with their IELTS English exam. UNISON Northern Ireland’s migrant workers Facebook page is a valuable hub to contact our members and offer ongoing support. The challenges we face are vast but not insurmountable. It is often said how things could be better if only things would change. UNISON believes that if we work together things will change. Our ideas are based on our collective experiences that by turning our vision of a better society into a reality and working together, positive change will happen. We need our civil society to work together to make the change.
Minority Rights Now
European Protection on Social Rights and austerity and cuts:
Ireland and beyond Dr Rory Hearne, Department of Geography, NUIM.
ords do not do justice to the scale of suffering and human rights abuses that have resulted in the Republic of Ireland from the imposition of austerity to enable the bail out of the Irish and European Winancial system. While the Irish and European banks and international bondholders were bailed out to the staggering amount of €64bn, the Irish people have had eight austerity budgets since 2008 that have cumulatively involved over €30 billion in public spending cuts and tax increases. The burden of the adjustment has been on the lower income and the most vulnerable groups in Irish society. There have been regressive taxes and cuts including a property tax and savage reductions in social welfare for the most vulnerable. These include cuts for under 25 year olds, cuts to fuel allowances, child beneWit, back to school clothing and footwear, home help hours for the elderly and sick, reduced disability
allowance and carers allowance, reduced allowances for the elderly, cuts to lone parents support, increased health charges, and third level student fees rising from €500 to €3,000. The most at-risk group of poverty in Ireland, lone parents, lost the highest percentage of income in Budget 2011. Two particular examples of the cuts hitting our most disadvantaged communities are the reduction in the regeneration plans (plans for new social housing and community facilities) for social housing estates and the cuts to the community development projects that work with disadvantaged communities. There has been a destruction of the social infrastructure of the Irish welfare state as the amount of public service workers delivering public services has been reduced by 37,500 over the period of austerity, from 320,000 to 282,500. The level of social devastation is shown by the fact that over 1.5 million people have €50 or less left over at the end of the month
National Regeneration Budget for Most Disadvantaged communities 2008-2013
2008 Total (million) 121
Government funding reductions for voluntary and community sector 2008-2012
Local Community Development Programme Initiatives against drugs Family support projects
- 35% - 29% - 17%
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom… Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed…” after their essential bills have been paid; there are 100,000 households in need of social housing; the deprivation rate is 22.5 per cent (an increase of 5.5 per cent in one year); and there are 730,000 living in poverty, with one in Wive children in poverty. On top of this you have the huge family and community impacts of 90,000 emigrating in 2012 and 97,874 in mortgage arrears. Austerity has clearly exacerbated inequality. The Central Statistics OfWice showed that those on the “lowest income docile experienced a decrease in equalized disposable income of more than 26 per cent while those in the highest income docile experienced an increase in income of more than 8 per cent”, while the gap between the richest and poorest in Ireland increased by 25 per cent in 2010. The top 20 per cent of the population’s average income is Wive times the income of those on the lowest 20 per cent, and yet the top 10 per cent of households only pay an effective average tax rate of 25.6 per cent. Similarly, many corporations are only playing an effective tax rate of four to six per cent. But austerity was - and is - a political choice made by the government, state and Winancial elite. There
‘Human Rights and Social Movements, Neil Stammers
were, and remain, alternatives to austerity, including getting a fair contribution of tax from those on higher incomes and multinational corporations, and using the billions in national cash reserves to implement a jobs creation programme. The evidence of austerity in Ireland backs up the Windings in Oxfam’s recent report, A Cautionary Tale: The True Cost of Austerity and Inequality in Europe. It stated that “Europe’s handling of the economic crisis threatens to roll-back decades of social rights… and… [i]f left unchecked, austerity policies could put between 15 and 25 million more Europeans at risk of poverty by 2025 – nearing the population of the Netherlands and Austria combined. This would bring the number of people at risk of poverty in Europe up to 146 million, over a quarter of the population.” Just this week the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, made an appeal for food because “there are children in Dublin schools so hungry they cannot learn while some university students don’t have decent nourishment either… the demand of people for simple wholesome food for themselves and their children is not being met for large numbers of people”. Austerity in Ireland has clearly breached a number of human rights treaties that the Irish government has signed up to. For example, the Council of Europe’s Revised European Social Charter (RESC) at Article 30 states that “With a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion, the Parties undertake… to take measures within the framework of an overall and coordinated approach to promote the effective access of persons who live or risk living in a situation of social exclusion or poverty, as well as their families, to, in particular, employment, housing, training, education, culture and social and medical assistance.
And Article E states: "The enjoyment of the rights set forth in this Charter shall be secured without discrimination”. Yet there have been disproportionate cuts to supports for the most vulnerable in our society such as those with a disability, the elderly, and children. The European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, which applies to the EU's institutions and member states when implementing EU laws, has been completely disregarded in the European Central Bank policy of enforcing debt slavery on peripheral countries like Ireland, as it did not allow governments to ‘burn’ bondholders but insisted the state and its people pay for the losses of the private banks. Furthermore, the bailout programme fundamentally breaches human rights in the way in which it has forced the cost of adjustment on to the Irish people rather than Winancial institutions. But none of these human rights treaties have stopped austerity. Furthermore, the government, state, and political system have been allowed to use the crisis as an opportunity to dismantle the human rights infrastructure and key organisations that critically highlighted inequality during the ‘Celtic Tiger’, such as the Combat Poverty Agency, the Equality Authority, and the Irish Human Rights Commission. Austerity has thus left the human rights infrastructure in tatters and huge questions remain over its relevance. The social partnership, politelobbying, and ‘defend your patch’ approach of many of the organisations tasked with defending human rights, such as NGOs, charities and trade unions, has resulted in civil society becoming part of the establishment, failing to resist austerity in any meaningful way and abandoning the principles of social justice and solidarity. The most signiWicant human rights opposition has come from grassroots
movements and organisations that use the methods and approaches of the civil rights movements and original human rights struggles that are outlined in a great book that everyone interested in human rights should read. In ‘Human Rights and Social Movements, Neil Stammers argues that “historically, movements that have constructed and struggled for human rights have typically challenged arbitrary power and privilege.” Emancipation and human rights are achieved through self-liberation, people power, and empowering rights holders to take political action themselves; just as Martin Luther King Jr said: “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom… Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed…” For example, take the Dolphin House ‘Rialto Rights Inaction’ Human Rights campaign which empowered local authority tenants of one of most disadvantaged communities. Using the model of the Participation and Practice of Rights Project (PPR Project) in Northern Ireland as inspiration, it has proactively campaigned for the right to proper housing conditions and the right to regeneration. It has used community development to empower tenants to lead a public campaign that is publicly critical and created a political pressure that forced the state to act. Similar action is being taken by the anti-household charges campaign, local hospital action groups, Shell to Sea, the Ballyhea debt campaign, and the We’re Not Leaving youth movement. These are the contemporary human rights defenders.
Minority Rights Now
Tackling poverty and increasing economic mobility for people from ethnic minority groups in Northern Ireland Helen Barnard, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
he disadvantages facing many ethnic minority people in Northern Ireland are not new. It is vital for the economy, as well as for individuals’ wellbeing, that we make better use of the skills of low paid people across all ethnicities. In February this year the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) published a report examining what we know about how poverty and ethnicity in Northern Ireland are linked. This reviewed all of the evidence to date; we subsequently commissioned a project which aims to understand more about what helps and hinders economic mobility among minority ethnic people in Northern Ireland. We will be publishing that report in early 2014. These projects are part of a wider JRF programme exploring poverty and ethnicity across the UK. So far, as well as the Northern Ireland evidence review, we have also published reports focused on: - Poverty and ethnicity in Wales -‘In work’ poverty, ethnicity and workplace cultures; and -Social networks, ethnicity and poverty. Over the next few months we will also be publishing reports examining caring and earning, and on the role of places and local labour markets in shaping the links between poverty and ethnicity. The overall picture from all of this evidence is still taking shape, but there are already some clear themes across the projects, as well as Windings that are speciWic to particular places or groups. For Northern Ireland there are a number of striking points. It is clear that there is a great deal we do not know about the relationship between poverty and ethnicity here. One
“Our work on the future of the UK labour market shows that a key problem in addressing poverty is the nature of the jobs on offer. In particular, there is a disconnect between the ‘core’ market of secure, well-paid jobs offering chances for development and progression, and the ‘peripheral’ market of insecure, low-paid, dead-end jobs that so many people in poverty get stuck in.”
thing that is evident both from the statistics and people’s experiences is that Northern Ireland has changed massively in recent years; one aspect of this major change is the increased ethnic diversity. The 2001 Census, the Wirst in Northern Ireland to ask about ethnicity, counted the minority ethnic population as being 0.7% of the total population. By 2011, this was 1.7%, a huge rise of nearly two and a half times. Observing discussions about poverty and ethnicity in Northern Ireland, I am often struck by how often ‘ethnic minority’ seems to be conWlated with ‘immigrant’ or ‘newcomer’. Whilst those working in the Wield are well aware of the longstanding ethnic minority communities in Northern Ireland, this does not always seem to have penetrated into wider consciousness. Over the last decade there have, of course, been big increases in the numbers of people from some places, particularly Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia. But it is a mistake to think that issues of disadvantage and discrimination began with this these arrivals. One key difference between Northern Ireland and most of Great Britain is, of course, sectarianism. This affects people
from outside the two main Protestant and Catholic communities in complex ways; anecdotally, it can make for tricky decisions about where to live, which school to send children to, and which services to use. It also easily overshadows broader questions of ethnicity. A theme that emerges strongly from all the projects we have commissioned across the UK in the poverty and ethnicity programme is the importance of the quality of work that people from all backgrounds can access. As is the case in other parts of the UK, many people from ethnic minority groups in Northern Ireland are highly skilled and qualiWied. However, they face barriers in translating this into good quality work. Others have low skills and Wind it very hard to increase their qualiWications. The evidence in Northern Ireland so far is patchy but suggests that many people from ethnic minority groups are stuck in low-paid work with a high risk of poverty. This is compounded by experiences of racism among employees, pupils and service users, which have met with very mixed responses. This is a big issue across the whole UK, affecting people from all ethnic groups. More than half of poverty exists among households where at least one person is already working. Low pay is part of the problem, but, poor quality part-time work and self-employment are big issues as well. The campaign to encourage more employers, both public and private sector, to adopt the Living Wage has been gaining momentum in many places in the UK. But this is only one part of the solution. It is equally important that workers who start out on low pay (whether that is the minimum wage or the higher living wage) are able to progress in work, gaining more security and job satisfaction as well as higher pay. Tackling in-work poverty, low pay and progression has been rising up the policy
agenda, in part because of Universal Credit. Jobcentres and Work Programme providers are going to have to implement in-work conditionality with a client group who have very different needs from the workless claimants they are used to dealing with. Making Universal Credit achieve beneWit savings and poverty reduction relies on staff advising people who are in low-paid work on how to improve their pay or get more hours. It is not at all clear whether those staff will have the skills, tools and networks to make this happen. We also cannot tell yet whether they will put less emphasis on ‘work-Wirst’ and more on ‘work-withprogression’. However, it is also vital that employers take steps to enable more lowpaid staff to gain experience, skills and promotion. Our work on the future of the UK labour market shows that a key problem in addressing poverty is the nature of the jobs on offer. In particular, there is a disconnect between the ‘core’ market of secure, wellpaid jobs offering chances for development and progression, and the ‘peripheral’ market of insecure, low-paid, dead-end jobs that so many people in poverty get stuck in. Analysis of the census Wigures for the whole
of the UK by the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity based at Manchester University show that these issues are strongly affected by ethnicity. People from some ethnic minority groups are disproportionately shut out of full-time, good quality employment. They are more likely to be low paid and in part-time jobs or self-employed. The research we recently published examining workplace cultures shows in detail how the informal practices of large employers prevent low-paid staff from progressing, wasting skills and potential. It also demonstrates how these cultures tend disproportionately to affect employees from ethnic minority backgrounds. The project we are currently funding, examining economic mobility among some ethnic minority groups in Northern Ireland, is Winding many of the same issues here. Our programme suggests that there are many ways through which employers can tackle these issues, beneWiting both low paid workers and their organisations. First, employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors need to take a strategic approach to supporting career progression among low-paid workers from all ethnic backgrounds and take a hard look at the
pockets of informal culture that undermine their equal opportunities policies. Alongside this they should change managers’ performance objectives to include developing low-paid staff and build ‘working to learn’ cultures with inclusive opportunities for work shadowing, coaching and mentoring, as well as training. These steps can contribute towards creating transparent career ladders that show clearly what skills, experience and training are needed to move up. Larger public and private sector organisations can also use procurement to ensure that low-paid workers in their supply chains are also able to progress out of poverty. Finally, it is important for organisations to monitor and benchmark not only recruitment but also progression, retention and development. Northern Ireland’s growing diversity means that it is even more important for the government, service providers, local authorities, private sector employers and community groups to get to grips with these issues. When the economy is struggling and public spending is under pressure, it cannot make sense to continue to waste the talents and potential of so many workers.
Minority Rights Now
Austerity’s easy scapegoats Feature
Elizabeth Nelson, NICEM
ssues of immigration, recession and austerity have become intrinsically linked in today’s Europe. What many perhaps thought started with Golden Dawn in Greece – images of marches of masked men, migrants attacked and bloodied in the street, the rise of the far right - has slowly crept to our own doorsteps. Or, perhaps it has simply been lying dormant, and has now begun to awaken. In Sweden, riots in the capital city Stockholm last year stunned Europe. The country held up as a model for others to emulate for its commitment to promoting equality, welfare and support systems, was experiencing large-scale rioting over Wive nights in the immigrant enclave of Husby. Sky-rocketing inequality has hit poor immigrant communities in Sweden particularly hard. In the United Kingdom, heavily antiimmigrant rhetoric has been documented almost everywhere you look, from the front pages tabloids, and The Daily Mail in particular, to the mouths of political leaders, who readily attribute blame to immigrants for almost every social ill resulting from the recession. This form of inWlammatory and biased media coverage also heightens the risk of racially motivated hate crime by fuelling racist sentiment, intolerance and xenophobia. Why do we blame migrants for our economic and social troubles? This is not the Wirst time, nor is it likely to be the last. Is there any truth to the myths, or are they purely a product of racism and ideology, serving to divide rather than unite? And what impact do these myths have on public policy, and, in turn, on migrants in wider society?
From myth-making to law-making
Restrictions like those waiting in the Coalition Government’s Immigration Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, have their roots in certain fears and misconceptions that are all recessionlinked, even if the recession did not cause them.
The myth that immigration potentially undercuts wages and employments
Why do we blame migrants for our economic and social troubles? This is not the first time, nor is it likely to be the last. Is there any truth to the myths, or are they purely a product of racism and ideology, serving to divide rather than unite? And what impact do these myths have on public policy, and, in turn, on migrants in wider society?
opportunities in reality is more about the exploitation of foreign workers than any sort of ‘automatic’ wage drop because of inward migration and competition for jobs. This is part of the drive towards ‘Wlexibility,’ which forces workers in to precarious, insecure working arrangements (such as ‘zero-hour’ contracts) and results in underemployment and exploitation of people in desperate situations. A more effective approach might be to focus on providing consistent work at a living wage, Wighting austerity alongside workers of all backgrounds. In reality, the arrival of highly motivated migrant workers not only helps to promote cultural diversity, but it drives innovation, contributes to economic growth and helps to Will skill gaps. Indeed,
the Financial Times recently reported on Windings from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Migration Research Centre at University College London (UCL), which highlight the ‘tangible economic and Wiscal beneWits [of immigration] to Britain’.
In October, an undercover BBC investigation revealed that letting agents in London were ‘refusing’ black tenants (13 October 2013). Reporters posing as landlords intimated that they would prefer their properties not be let to minorities, to which letting agents replied that they had methods to ensure this would
not happen. Under the Equality Act of 2010, it is illegal for businesses to refuse to provide a service based on ethnicity. This is very worrying, particularly in light of the provision in the Immigration Bill to require private landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants, likely to address the myth of ‘queuejumping’ migrant families. The proposals are being opposed even by the landlords themselves, who worry not only about the increased bureaucracy, but also about the fact that they will be criminalized if they fail to undertake the necessary checks or knowingly allowing an undocumented migrant to rent their property.
This is not really about migrants coming and taking all the houses. Rather, it is more about a social housing shortage, and therefore the inability – or perhaps unwillingness – of the government to provide an appropriate level of social housing, dating back to the Thatcher era. This misconception persists despite evidence cited by the BBC which conWirms that recent immigrants are ‘45 per cent less likely to receive state beneWits’ and ‘three per cent less likely to live in social housing’. NICEM has in the past highlighted the vulnerability of migrants – particularly asylum-seekers – who are forced into the private rental sector when they cannot
Minority Rights Now
access the social housing to which they are entitled. They are often at risk of destitution and exploitation, which arguably is what legislation should be addressing, and providing further support for vulnerable migrants.
The Government’s favorite myth at the moment appears to be the NHS-exploiting ‘health tourist’ migrant, perhaps best personiWied in the heavily pregnant Nigerian woman who Wlies to Britain just to have her baby for free, and then goes home. Cries of ‘we’re a national health system, not an international one’ can be heard from politicians both left and right, and the Government seems embroiled in a Wight with the European Commission what the exact numbers of those taking undue advantage of the NHS actually are. In October 2013, the Commission published a report stating that jobless EU migrants make up less than Wive per cent of those claiming social beneWits in most of the EU member states studied. This is in direct contravention to Government claims, which puts the number of ‘health tourists’ much higher. Some media outlets have focused on the 600,000 people the Commission’s report
says are ‘non-active’ in the UK, claiming that they are ‘unemployed.’ However, the Commission said this Wigure included older schoolchildren, students, the spouses of migrant workers, and retired people. While the report focuses more on general ‘beneWit tourism’ than speciWically on health, its Windings are instructive as regards the healthcare debate. GPs are concerned that they will be required to act as stand-in immigration ofWicers if provisions in the Immigration Bill pass. They say this will affect the standard of care they are able to provide to patients of all backgrounds, and yet the Government persists with regulations despite evidence that migrants pay more tax and draw fewer beneWits – including the NHS – than local Britons (UCL report 2013).
The myth and the backlash
In June 2012, the far-right Golden Dawn Party swept through the polls, becoming the third largest party in Greece. One of the central tenets of the party is its antiimmigration stance - its ‘response’ to the economic crisis in Greece. Golden Dawn is alleged to be behind horriWic violence against migrants, both economic migrants and those Wleeing oppression, violence and even worse economic conditions in the
Middle East, North Africa and beyond. While the UK has not seen the same level of anti-immigrant violence, it has not been short on anti-immigrant rhetoric, and indeed, it seems the problem is getting worse. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) has put what it calls the incoming ‘Wlood’ of immigration centre-stage in the political debate, which seems to have forced the Conservatives (and Labour) to double-down on their own stances on immigration. This has led to Wierce debates on so-called ‘beneWit tourism’ and immigrant-fueled criminality, particularly as regards the Roma. Politicians often claim to be representing or reiterating the concerns of their constituents when called out on rhetoric such as this. And while there are likely many people concerned about immigration, there has been little to no examination of why they feel that way, and what role the government, politicians and indeed the media play in creating and recreating impressions of a massive inWlux of immigrants bent on stealing, jobs, homes and wrecking the healthcare system. Immigrants and minorities have been used as scapegoats in times of economic crises for generations, and yet evidence to support these claims is few and far between.
The EUand Human Rights
Rory OʼConnell Professor of Human Rights and Constitutional Law, University of Ulster.
raditionally the European Union (EU) did not focus on human rights issues, but this has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Most notably, in 2000 the three EU institutions solemnly proclaimed the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights as a non-binding declaration. In 2004, during the discussion of a European Constitutional Treaty, it was proposed to include the Charter in the Treaty and give it legal force. As a consequence, several states successfully urged redrafting of parts of the Charter to clarify its precise legal effect. In 2009 the Treaty of Lisbon adopted important provisions in Article 6 and Article 7 TEU. These confer the same legal status on the Charter as the treaties themselves possess. The Charter is a complex document with numerous limitations, but it also offers some important potential to further human rights protection in Europe.
The Charterʼs Limitations
Let us say a few words on the limitations or possible limitations. These are three main limitations, based on the scope of the charter, the substance of the charter and the Protocol secured by the UK and Poland to the Charter. The scope of the charter gave rise to considerable unease among some member states. Some states were concerned that the Charter would considerably extend the competence of the Union and further erode national sovereignty. The result of these concerns is seen in both Article 6 TEU and also in Article 51 of the Charter. These provisions make it clear that the Charter applies in two situations. First, the Charter applies to the Union institutions and their agencies, etc. This is unproblematic. Second, and much more complex, the Charter applies to Member States ‘only when they are implementing Union law’. This again makes sense but is much more open to interpretation and controversy. The Charter drafters shied away from language which would have suggested the Charter applied to Member states within the Wield of application of Union law, as this would have potentially been very broad. The use of the term ‘implementing’ is meant to suggest something narrower. Two more recent cases demonstrate the sorts of lines drawn by the court of Justice. In Dereci (Dereci Case C-256/11, 15 November 2011) the case concerned a third country national living with Union nationals in a Union state (Austria). They were denied residence permits. The national authorities considered that Union law did not apply as the Union citizens had not exercised free
movement rights. However, an earlier case suggested that Union law did cover this situation. In Dereci, the CJEU drew a distinction on the basis that the Union citizens in the instant case were not faced with a threat of deprivation of subsistence; more particularly, the Union citizen would have to be faced with a threat of having to leave the Union territory as a whole, as a consequence of the non-granting of the residence permit. If that were the case then Union law would apply and the Charter would be applicable; if not then EU law and the Charter are inapplicable. Even more recently, the Pringle case considers the question of charter
applicability. Pringle challenged the amendment procedure used to provide for a stability mechanism for states using the Euro. The Supreme Court of Ireland referred questions on the validity of this Decision and the legal obligations of member states under EU law to the Court of Justice. The CJEU concluded that the amendment was permitted and did not extend the competences of the Union. With regard to the argument about compatibility with various EU obligations, including the Charter and fundamental rights, the CJEU reasoned that the States were not implementing EU law as ‘the EU and FEU treaties do not confer any 17
Minority Rights Now
the Charter is not a perfect instrument for the protection of human rights; there are question marks over its scope of application and its effectiveness in relation to the UK and Ireland in particular may be limited due to a number of opt-out possibilities for these countries. speciWic competence on the Union to establish such a mechanism.’ (Pringle v Ireland C-370/12, 27 November 2012.) Some problems with the Charter may stem from the substance or content of the Charter itself. First, the Charter contains some rights which reWlect the economic focus of the Union. This includes the right to property (Article 17) and also the ‘freedom to conduct a business’, which could conceivably be counterpoised to the protection of certain social and economic rights and even equality rights. In early 2013, the CJEU handed down an interesting judgment concerning Ryanair. Ryanair had argued that imposing on it obligations to compensate passengers for disruption caused by the Icelandic ash cloud would endanger its rights under Articles 16 and 17 – the right to conduct a business and the right to property. The Court concluded that these were qualiWied rights which had to be balanced against Article 38 on consumer protection. There is a balance to be struck and so there are also limits on what the passenger can claim (McDonagh v Ryanair Case C-12/11, 31 January 2013). The Charter (post 2004) includes language in the Preamble, Article 51, and Article 52 announcing a distinction between rights and
‘principles’ in the Charter. Article 52(5) goes on to suggest that principles have a limited form of justiciability. However, the Charter does not make clear what are rights and what are principles, and the exact legal effect of principles will need to be sorted out by the CJEU. The danger is that these ‘principles’ may be found to include social and economic rights. Despite the renegotiation of the Charter as part of the Constitutional Treaty process, some states were still uneasy with the implications of the Charter when negotiating Lisbon. Accordingly, the UK and Poland secured a protocol to the charter. This protocol is sometimes described as an optout, but this is almost certainly not its actual effect whatever may have been the intention. The European Parliament, in a recent opinion on the Czech Republic’s request to draw up a protocol on the Charter and the Czech Republic has commented on the effect of the UK and Poland Protocol. According to the Parliament the Protocol does not exempt those states from the Charter and serves only to cause legal uncertainty in both those states and indeed others.
Despite the limitations the Charter also offers important potential for at least six reasons. First, the Charter incorporates the rights in the familiar European Convention on Human Rights but in some important ways enhances them. Thus the prohibition on slavery and forced labour (Article 5) includes an explicit prohibition on human trafWicking. The right to marry (Article 9) is expressed in gender-neutral language. The equality clauses include a free standing guarantee of equality before the law (Article 20), while the list of prohibited grounds of
discrimination explicitly include disability, age, sexual orientation, genetic features (none of these are explicitly included in the Convention provision). Second, the Charter includes many rights which are not listed in the Convention (though in some cases they may be implicit). These include speciWic mention of academic freedom, freedom to conduct a business, asylum, the rights of the child, the rights of the elderly, integration of persons with disabilities, workers’ rights to information and consultation, collective bargaining and action, placement services, dismissal protection, fair and just working conditions, family and professional life, social security and assistance, health care, access to services of general economic interest, environmental protection and consumer protection. The Charter also includes ‘citizens’ rights’ which particularly relate to the relationship with Union institutions and provide for European Parliament and municipal elections, good administration, access to documents, an Ombudsman, right to petition, free movement and residence and diplomatic protection. In relation to dignity, several developments are noteworthy. First, there is the Cimade and GISTI case, where the CJEU ruled that the minimum conditions of reception for asylum seekers must always be respected even if the state where the seeker is present is not the one responsible for determining the asylum claim (Cimade and GISTI v Ministre de l'Interieuer C-179/11, 27 September 2012). These minimum conditions include provision of housing, food, clothing and daily expenses allowance. In so interpreting the Directive 2003/9, the Court relied on Article 1 (dignity) and 18 (asylum) of the Charter. Also on dignity, in NS and ME, the CJEU ruled that EU law does
not offer an irrebuttable presumption that all EU states respect fundamental human rights. Accordingly, EU state cannot return an asylum seeker to the EU state who would normally have responsibility for deciding the claim if that state permits the systematic breach of asylum seekers’ rights (NS and ME v Secretary of State for Home Department; Refugee Applications Commissioner Case C 411/10 and Case C 493/10, 21 December 2011). In a more recent case on the rights of a child asylum seeker, the CJEU invoked the best interests principle in the Charter to interpret EU law to require that when a child has lodged requests for asylum in multiple states and there is no adult relation of the child in a Member State, then the state where the child is present has responsibility for the chid (MA v Secretary of State for the Home Department Case C-648/11, 6 June 2013.). The inclusion of social security has already given rise to an interesting decision, though unfortunately its implications will not apply to the UK and Ireland. The Directive on Third Country Nationals 2003/109/EC of 19 November 2003 recognises that states may limit the provision of social beneWits for third country nationals to ‘core beneWits’. It then becomes important to determine what counts as a core beneWit. In Kamberaj the CJEU has ruled that housing beneWit was a core beneWit; in so doing the CJEU invoked Article 34 of the Charter which refers to social and housing assistance a providing for a decent life for all (Kamberaj v Istituto per l’Edilizia sociale della Provincia autonoma di Bolzano (IPES), Case C-571/10, 24 April 2012.). (The UK and Ireland are not bound by the relevant directive and so this reasoning, at least based on this directive, cannot apply in these jurisdictions.) Third, a key potential of the Charter system stems from the speciWic legal status of EU law. These are legal tools often considerably stronger than those within the Convention system. Fourth, the Charter system includes some important information tools provided by the Commission and the Fundamental Rights Agency. These include the FRA’s Charterpedia database which provides information on Charter related case law for instance (Available at http://infoportal.fra.europa.eu/InfoPortal/) and the Commission’s e-justice portal https://e-justice.europa.eu, which provides information on justice systems throughout the EU. Fifth, the Charter system provides for monitoring of the state of human rights in the EU – this is provided by the Fundamental Rights Agency reports and by the Commission including the Commission’s Annual Charter Report. In relation to equality, the Report (European Union, 2012 Report on the Application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (2013)) highlights a number of serious problems including xenophobic and racist violence, gender inequality and homophobia. On the former, the Report notes that nearly one-Wifth of
Roma and one-Wifth of Sub-Saharan African interviewees reported having been the victim of violence assault or threat during the previous 12 months. The Report also noted that very few states (only four including the UK) compiled comprehensive data on this problem. The Report also includes an annex on gender equality issues, including the gender pay gap, gender pensions gap and inequalities in the membership of decisionmaking bodies. These last points are included in a lengthy appendix and highlight a number of serious concerns: • The economic crisis originally affected male employment more but since then cuts in the public sector have impacted on women; • while women are 60% of university graduates, they are only 46% of PhD holders and only 11% of university heads; • the gender pay gap was about 16%; • four times as many single parent households are headed by a female parent; • gender pension gap is 39%. Sixth, and perhaps most importantly, the Charter system has the possibility for an enforcer - the Commission has the power to take enforcement action against states if they are in breach of their EU obligations. This can result in a court case before the CJEU. Importantly for instance the Commission took a successful case against Hungary arising from its judicial reform laws, and has begun another case against Hungary based on data protection laws. In the judicial reform case, the CJEU found that decision to lower the retirement age for
judges by eight years without any staggering process constituted a disproportionate form of age discrimination (European Commission v Hungary C-286/12, 6 November 2012). It is notable that this case was expedited by the CJEU; the process took a mere Wive months. While this is a high proWile and high politics case, the Commission’s work covers a great deal else. It can receive communications alleging breaches of Union law and can make representations, engage in negotiations etc based on the information received. On homophobia the Commission has intervened with Maltese authorities on its laws impacting on same-sex partners of EU citizens who moved to Malta; the state amended its laws in response. The Commission also intervened in Council of Europe negotiations on a recommendation on blood donors to urge that no discrimination on sexual orientation be permitted. In conclusion, the Charter is not a perfect instrument for the protection of human rights; there are question marks over its scope of application and its effectiveness in relation to the UK and Ireland in particular may be limited due to a number of opt-out possibilities for these countries. Nevertheless, the Charter mechanisms provide important resources for disseminating information about human rights and human rights abuses and also offer the possibility for some redress either through the Court of Justice of the EU, or through the action of the Commission.
Minority Rights Now
The politics of welfare reform
orthern Ireland will be the region of the UK to suffer the greatest 2inancial loss under planned welfare reform, according to new research. It states that when the reforms come into full effect they will take £750 million annually out of the economy here – equivalent to £650 for every adult of working age, research by academics from Shef2ield Hallam University (SHU) found. Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland responded by saying a large element of the £750m related to controls in future uplifts of individual bene2its and he likened it to “what many working families have had to deal with during the recession”. The research was explored in depth on the news and analysis website TheDetail.tv where reporter Steven McCaffery also explored how Stormont’s largest parties – who were already divided on issues such as the redevelopment of the former Maze prison site - may handle the prospect of cuts to vulnerable sections of Northern Ireland society.
Stormont leaders essentially have three options. They can agree a compromise package that blunts the worst of the cuts – but it is unclear how they might fund it from their already stretched Assembly budget. They can continue to delay a decision on welfare reform and risk a potential £60 million Wine from London at the end of this Winancial year. Or they can Wlatly refuse to implement the changes and risk Westminster ultimately intervening over the heads of local politicians to impose the cuts anyway. A further complicating factor is that Sinn Féin is acutely aware of the risk to its political ambitions in the Irish republic, where its soaring opinion poll Wigures are based on an anti-cuts agenda.
So what factors will the various parties be weighing up?
ʻWelfare reform - Stormont faces another mazeʼ
DISPUTES over Wlags and parades have poisoned the atmosphere in Northern Ireland over the last year – but the impact of welfare cuts is the real political dynamite that could rock the Assembly if it is not handled with care. Stormont is already under strain, with fears that any further breach of agreements between the DUP and Sinn Féin could push their power-sharing government past the point of no return. But while those tensions are being played out in public, the two parties have for months been privately discussing how to handle the welfare cuts being imposed by Westminster. Now dramatic new research has presented evidence that vulnerable communities in Northern Ireland will be hit harder than in any other region of the UK, with researchers claiming the local economy could lose up to £750 million each year. With this bleak forecast now in the public domain, the response of Stormont’s main parties will depend on a series of political variables. The DUP and Sinn Féin are circling each other on the issue, while the response of the Conservative-led government in London will also be key to how events play out.
Sinn Féin Any political party will have a range of policy aims that it hopes to make progress on in various areas of government. But in addition, they have overarching longterm strategic objectives and for Sinn Féin a key political priority is building the party in the republic. This is one of the reasons why earlier this year republican sources were whispering that welfare cuts imposed by Westminster could damage Northern Ireland’s powersharing government. Party sources stress that the key concern for republicans is the impact the cuts will have on vulnerable communities in Northern Ireland that are already under pressure because of the wider difWiculties in the economy.
But an additional political factor is how the image of Sinn Féin overseeing welfare cuts in the north would be received in the south. Sinn Féin made its breakthrough into the politics of the Dáil at the last Irish General Election in February 2011. The development provided republicans with a precarious foothold, but one which they are determined to build on. An opinion poll published recently in the Irish Times placed Sinn Féin as the second most popular party in the republic. The main party of government Fine Gael was found to be on 26 per cent support, Sinn Féin on 23 per cent, Fianna Fáil on 22 per cent, with independents on 21 percent. Most signiWicantly, Sinn Féin’s left wing rivals in Labour dropped to a new low of 6 per cent. Labour is Winding life hard as the junior partner in a coalition government that is imposing deep cuts which it is hoped will get the republic’s beleaguered economy back on track. But Sinn Féin can only hope to capitalise on the discomfort of other parties if it can maintain its attack on the cuts agenda. Its rivals in the Irish parliament have tried to identify inconsistencies between Sinn Féin’s role as a party of government in the north and a party of opposition in the south. Those attacks have had little impact, but the image of Sinn Féin allowing Stormont to facilitate cuts to the deprived, the sick or the disabled would be easier to translate to a southern audience. Sinn Féin maintains, however, that its prime concern is minimising the impact of the cuts on deprived communities and hard-pressed individuals. It claims that in Stormont departments such as Education and the OfWice of First Minister and Deputy First Minister it has sought to direct funding towards those in greatest need. And it has repeatedly raised its concerns over welfare reform in public over the last year, with deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness declaring in April: “Sinn Féin will resist this onslaught on the most vulnerable.” The dilemma it faces is how to fund any compromise welfare package. And a question mark hangs over how party strategists at the top of Sinn Féin will handle the issue if they are pushed by London, or by their government partners in Belfast.
“dramatic new research has presented evidence that vulnerable communities in Northern Ireland will be hit harder than in any other region of the UK, with researchers claiming the local economy could lose up to £750 million each year.”
DUP Since last year the Democratic Unionists, who hold the Social Development ministry that oversees welfare reform, have warned of the cost of refusing to implement the cuts. By March 2014 the Westminster government could impose a £60million `Wine’ on Stormont if there is a continued delay in implementing the welfare reforms. But if the Northern Ireland parties become gridlocked on the issue and a refusal to implement the reforms runs into the longterm, this would represent a breach of parity with social security arrangements in Britain. The government could Wine Stormont, but the worst case scenario is that London could intervene in Stormont’s affairs to directly enforce the cuts – (a theoretical risk which it has been claimed could require dismantling part of the power-sharing arrangements dating back to 1998, thereby potentially alienating Sinn Féin). The DUP, meanwhile, has insisted “it is not a cheerleader” for the cuts, but has said the most realistic means of easing the burden is to engage with the authorities in
Westminster and avoid a crisis that might undermine the provision of welfare supports. As a result, the Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland and his ofWicials have been involved in protracted efforts to secure concessions from London that recognise Northern Ireland’s particular needs. The Minister said this has proven fruitful, but he has also showed some sympathy with the ideology driving the Westminster reforms, pointing to the need to change the welfare system so it becomes “a springboard rather than a trap”. The increasing claims that the DUP has become disconnected from working class Protestant communities – something it denies – may have heightened its concerns at how the implementation of the reforms will be received within its own community. But the party leader and First Minister Peter Robinson has already joined Mr McGuinness in asking the London government to make a special case of Northern Ireland where the legacy of the Troubles has contributed to higher levels of disability, mental illness and poverty.
London The British government has been accused of failing to properly steward the peace process and it has responded by seeking to
accentuate the positive in Northern Ireland. This has been a difWicult task during a year dominated by riots over parades and Wlags, as well as the images of political discord at Stormont. But with the Conservative Party inevitably focused on the issues facing the UK economy, it has also sought to focus on economic matters in Northern Ireland. It unveiled an economic package in June to help boost local commerce and argued that its decision to host the G8 here also showcased Northern Ireland in a positive light. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to attend the international investment conference planned for Belfast next week and there are hints that jobs announcements will be made in the run-up to the event. But the conference comes amid the fallout over the collapse of Stormont’s plans to redevelop the former Maze prison site – scuppering the 5,000 jobs that project was predicted to deliver. London will want to avoid a further crisis in Belfast over the implementation of the welfare reforms that the Cameron government has imposed elsewhere in the UK. But if the Prime Minister makes a special case of Northern Ireland, how will politicians in Britain react? It was a concession he was reluctant to allow when Belfast sought special treatment on Corporation Tax. Like the Maze row before it, welfare reform is another issue contributing to gridlock at Stormont, and there is no obvious way out of it. © The Detail 2013 This article first appeared on TheDetail.tv on 3 October 2013 and has been reprinted, with an introductory paragraph, with permission
Minority Rights Now
A Birdʼs Eye View of… Westminister Monica Anand,NICEM
to the public, manifestos and policy documents and websites - be accounted for as expenditure, but, under the Bill a broad range of activities such as press conferences and media events, transport, market research and canvassing, rallies and public events must accounted for as well.
This Bill will make it easier to remove those here 'illegally', reduce the number of appeals they can make, and simplify the process, according to the Government. In addition, it will ensure that only legal, documented migrants can beneWit from and have access to the labour market, health services, housing, bank accounts and driving licences. For everyone else, the obstacles surrounding these services have become even more difWicult to surmount.
There is a lack of a clear interpretation in relation to the deWinition of ‘controlled expenditure.’ This creates considerable uncertainty for organisations, which could lead to organisations being unwittingly caught out by the new rules.
The provisions of the Bill include at least six areas of controversy which are of concern to NICEM:
Renting Flats Landlord checks Private landlords will be required, under the threat of a £3000 Wine, to ensure that all potential tenants are a 'legal resident' in the UK. This will, in essence, give landlords the role of quasi immigration ofWicers.
Opening bank accounts Under this legislation banks will have to check potential customers against a database of known immigration offenders before allowing the customer to open an account.
Deportation appeals The Bill reduces the number of grounds on which migrants can lodge an appeal. This would change under the Bill from 17 to just four. It aims to create a barrier to those migrants who block deportation using their constitutional 'right to respect for private and family life' under Article 8 of the ECHR.
NHS Levy Temporary migrants, such as overseas students, will be required to pay a £200- ayear levy towards the cost of NHS Services. Wedding Registrars Registrars will now be required to inform the Home OfWice of planned weddings between and UK citizens those from outside Europe, in a bid to cut down on 'sham' marriages.
Driving License New powers will be created to check driving licence applicants’ immigration status before issuing a licence and revoke licences where immigrants are found to have overstayed in the UK.
The Transparency of Lobbying Bill This summer, in a bid to address concerns around lobbying, the Coalition Government introduced Transparency of Lobbying, NonParty Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. The Bill has given rise to serious concerns in the community and voluntary sector over the impact it may have on their ability to inWluence policy development. A particular area of concern is Part 2 of the Bill, which deals solely with third-party campaigning, i.e. people or organisations who campaign in relation to elections but are not standing as candidates or a registered political party. For many charities inWluencing public policy and raising awareness of the issues affecting their causes and people they support is a routine part of their work. These methods are central to achieving their charitable objectives. Due to their non-partisan campaigning activity, charities as well as other voluntary organisations and community groups will be caught under the provisions of Part 2. According to the Bill's Explanatory Notes, Part 2 aims to "increase transparency in relation to spending by non-parties by requiring them to publish and record more information about their spending, donations, accounts and board members."
Concerns around the Bill include: The deWinition of 'controlled expenditure' for third parties has been signiWicantly extended. Now not only must ‘election material’ - such as advertising, leaWlets sent
The bill considerably cuts how much nonparty campaigners (i.e. charities and other voluntary organisations) can spend before having to register with the Electoral Commission. Previously if a charity spends more than £10,000 in England or £5,000 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it must register with the Electoral Commission as a ‘recognised third party’. Under the Bill these Wigures have been substantially reduced to £5,000 and £2,000 respectively. The Bill introduces excessive reporting requirements that will considerably increase the regulatory and administrative burden for registered campaigners. For example, registered third party campaigners would now be required to report donations every three months in the year leading up to a UK parliamentary election. The Bill will signiWicantly reduce the total that registered campaigners can spend on regulated activity in the year before the general election by 60 -70 per cent. This is of particular concern to organisations in Northern Ireland, asE elections here do not always run concurrently with Westminster. If passed, the applicable period of reduced expenditure for organisations here is likely to be much longer than 12 months. This is due to the fact it will apply to the 12 months leading up to the 2015 Westminster elections and, almost immediately after, the 12 months leading up to the 2016 NI Assembly election. This, therefore, places Northern Irish charities and organisations in a position of severe disadvantage. The timing of the Bill is also problematic for charities and other voluntary organisations. If enacted the provisions will come into force in May 2014, leaving only a matter of weeks for organisations to prepare for the new rules before elections. There is a general feeling that the Bill is being rushed through Parliament in order to be in place by May, and therefore applicable in the next general election. The Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement was set up by
several charities to take evidence from the community and voluntary sector and respond to the Bill. It has been taking evidence from community, voluntary and campaigning groups in all four regions of the UK, and its reports have been inWluential in the House of Lords
NEWS FROM THE HILL The All Party Group on Ethnic Minority Communities
On 5 November, the Coalition announced a sixweek pause to Part 2 of the Bill, to allow for further consultation and consideration. This was still in effect at the time of writing. However, this will not affect Parts 1 and 3, and the Government still intends to complete Committee Stage by Christmas. It is vital that the community and voluntary sector continues to press for fundamental changes in this Bill.
Office Bearers Following the six-month rotational system, the ofWice-bearers from September 2013 to February 2014 are:
The Bill, in its present form, will adversely affect a dangerously wide array of non-party organisations. These organisations range from organisations Wighting against the closure of a local hospital, to large charities working with society’s most vulnerable people. Opponents of the Bill claim its purpose is to neuter unions, stiWle criticism and prevent charities from legitimately campaigning on issues; becoming dangerously close to a 'gag' on free speech. It can only be hoped that the Bill’s pause to allow for this severely Wlawed piece of legislation to be reviewed and, ideally, drastically altered.
Chair: Colum Eastwood (SDLP) Vice Chair: Anna Lo (Alliance) Secretary: Steven Agnew (Green) Treasurer: David McClarty (Independent)
Charity Law seminar On Tuesday 12 November, the APG on EMC sponsored a seminar on the Charity Law for minority ethnic community groups. Speakers from the Charity Commission included Frances McCandless, Chief Executive, and Punam McGookin, Head of Charity Services. You can read more about this in ‘A Bird’s Eye View of Stormont.’
Racial Equality At the October meeting, the APG on EMC welcomed a presentation from Paul Noonan and Roisin Mallon of the Equality Commission, on the Commission’s policy paper regarding racial equality, as well as its priorities for law reform in the area. Forthcoming Meetings The next meetings of the APG on EMC are: No December meeting – Christmas recess Tuesday 21 January (3.30pm) Tuesday 18 February (3.30pm) Tuesday 18 March (3.30pm) No April meeting – Easter recess
A Birdʼs Eye View of… Stormont Regulation of charities in Northern Ireland The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland was established in 2011, and it was granted its powers of regulation, investigation and enforcement. A nondepartmental public body, the Commission is sponsored by the Department of Social Development, and is now preparing to register charities and plan its monitoring programme. A Register of Charities will be established this autumn.
There are no exemptions or exceptions. Some of the beneWits of registration are:
The Commission’s objectives are:
The Public BeneWit Requirement is a crucial part of the charity legislation, and is deWined in the Charities Act. It helps govern what are ‘charitable’ purposes, and ensures that charities work to advance and promote only those charitable purposes under which it is constituted. The 12 Charitable Purposes are:
- Public confidence… To increase public trust and confidence in charities - Public benefit… To promote awareness of the need to demonstrate public benefit - Compliance… To ensure proper management and administration of charities - Charitable resources… to promote effective use of charitable resources - Accountability… To enhance accountability to donors, beneficiaries and the public
All organizations that are or could be designated ‘charitable’ under the law are required to register with the Commission.
- Public transparency - Public accountability - Enhanced public trust with potential to lead to increased donations - Meet statutory obligation to register - Access to funding streams only open to charities - Visible regulation - Public ability to quickly and easily search for charities working in particular areas
- Education - Animal welfare - Citizenship - Arts, culture, heritage, science - Environmental protection or improvement - Relief of poverty - Health, saving lives
- Religion - Amateur sport - Human rights, conflict resolution, reconciliation, promotion of religious and racial harmony, equality and diversity - Supporting guidance - Any other charitable purpose
Further information is available on the Charity Commission’s website: www.charitycommissionni.org.uk Human TrafWicking and Exploitation (Further Support for Victims) Bill On 23 September, the Assembly completed its second reading of this Private Member’s Bill submitted by the DUP’s Lord Morrow. At the time of writing the Bill was being examined by the Committee for Justice. The Bill contains a number of provisions around prosecution, sentencing, support for victims and the establishment of a Northern Ireland rapporteur on human trafWicking.
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