Republican News · Thursday 17 February 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Refugee seeks fair play

Councillor Seán Crowe addresses a gathering outside the Department of Justice last Saturday, 12 February, when over 100 people came to support asylum seeker Ekundayo Ominiyi, whose long battle to establish his innocence comes to the District court this week.

``What is really on trial in the court this week is whether the courts will uphold the racist behaviour of the gardaí or put out a clear signal that it will not be tolerated in this state,'' said Crowe.

Ekundayo is a refugee seeking asylum in Ireland. He fled Nigeria in 1997, after escaping from a jail where he had been held without charge for several months, along with many other opponents of the military regime in Nigeria.

Ekundayo reached Ireland and applied for asylum here. His first application, as is the case with 85% of asylum seekers here, was rejected. He appealed and was awaiting a hearing when, in November 1998, the gardai tried to deport him, a deportation attempt which the Supreme Court subsequently ruled illegal.

Ekundayo was held for weeks in Mountjoy and was later charged with assaulting gardai in the car going to the airport whilst handcuffed and again as he was dragged handcuffed across the tarmac at the airport. The aircraft crew refused to take him on board the plane.

Over 3,000 people have petitioned the minister to drop the charges and institute an inquiry into the behaviour of the gardaí.

Several people spoke at Saturday's meeting, including Joe Higgins TD, Eamonn McCann and Mick O'Reilly of the ATGWU who came to declare the union's solidarity with Ekundayo and ``opposition to the institutional racism which appears to characterise the behaviour of the gardai in their treatment of Ekundayo.''

Rosanna Flynn of Residents against Racism, which organised the picket, referred to the Stephen Lawrence case in England, where the police had been found guilty of institutionalised racism. She quoted Chris Myant, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, who warned that the gardai also had lessons to learn from that case. ``With people moving from other parts of Europe and from around the world as refugees or simply as jobseekers in the Celtic Tiger, the guards have got to learn to police a society where people are not all white.''

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