discrimination | 

New report exposes increase in 'devastating' workplace racism against non-Irish

'When I joined, I was not introduced to anyone… I was non-existent'
Megan Flynn Dixon, from New Zealand, set up a gym in Galway that gives free classes to migrants

Megan Flynn Dixon, from New Zealand, set up a gym in Galway that gives free classes to migrants

Ciara O'Loughlin

As the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked conversations about racism in Ireland, many workers are saying they are fed up of putting up with it in the workplace.

Sabal* works as a healthcare assistant in a nursing home. Since the start of the pandemic, he said he and a number of his colleagues from migrant backgrounds have been working long hours to provide essential healthcare.

While working these long hours, he said, he is not paid any respect, adding that he and his non-Irish co-workers are heavily isolated.

"I face a lot of bullying and humiliation. Such behaviour is faced by the majority of non-Irish workers in the healthcare industry, directly and indirectly," he said.

"The overall experience in Ireland is challenging as a foreigner. Bullying is common and isolating.

"In the last year, all the non-Irish face bullying every week in my nursing home.

"I have been yelled at many times for no reason, no provocation. Cursing is common.

"Ganging up is another problem, during Covid-19, gossip spread by these gangs [of co-workers], such as that an Asian lady brought in the virus, or Africans, and that's why the residents' health has gone down."

Sabal said his first day on the job gave him a sense of what was to come.

"When I joined, I was not introduced to anyone… I was non-existent," he said.

"No hello, no greeting of any sort, didn't even ask my name. I thought maybe after a month it would be OK. But no, this continued for months.

"I feel like an alien. This makes me depressed, upset and sad all the time. Imagine you go to a workplace where people isolate you or don't wish to talk much just because you're not Irish."

Sabal's story is a part of a case study from the Immigrant Council of Ireland's (ICI) 2020 impact report.

ICI chief executive Brian Killoran said in the past year they have seen an increase in workplace racism, in particular in the healthcare sector.

"While this may not be the case for every migrant worker in Ireland, it is really important that the voices of those that have been targeted, are heard," he added.

"People need to realise the devastating impact discrimination can have, and workplaces need to ensure there are effective practices in place to ensure equality."

Last year, there was a 12pc increase in the number of queries to the Immigrant Council of Ireland's helpline.

The ICI also provides an anti-racism support service and in 2020 it saw a 24pc increase in reports of racial abuse.

A total of 57 people reported incidents of racism - with 27pc of the incidents reported happening in the workplace.

The organisation runs various workshops for businesses, schools and organisations on migrant rights and diversity.

It also has a number of workshops specifically tailored for migrants, to help educate and empower them to understand their voting rights and become change-makers in their local communities.

As part of its leadership academy workshop, Megan Flynn Dixon, a migrant from New Zealand, set up a gym called Le Chéile in Galway.

The gym provides free classes to people who have variable residency status.

"So many migrants and refugees in the international protection process are living in limbo awaiting a decision, with little to occupy their time," she said.

"The impact on mental and emotional health in these situations can't be overstated. I've seen such a change in so many clients at our gym. They feel like people again, not just a number in a long queue.

"The leadership academy empowers activists like myself to take an idea and make it a reality."

*Not his real name

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