The Irish Council of International Students held the event in Dublin to highlight the issues facing international students when they go to study in Ireland.
Speak Out Against Racism took place at Mansion House in the capital, where panellists from across Ireland’s universities and other prominent activists spoke out about their experiences and the need for more action.
“International students, according to the government, are worth €2.2bn to the economy [in Ireland],” said Laura Harmon, chief of ICOS.
“We really feel that any new action plans in relation to international students and recruitment need to include proper support for those students that are coming in.
“Absolutely tackling racism needs to be part of that as well,” she continued.
“Diversity allows us to learn something different from each other. It enriches education at all levels; we must empower this interaction by listening to minority voices who are discriminated against and strengthen our institutional structures for minorities to feel safe and strong,” said Amanullah De Sondy, a senior lecturer in contemporary Islam at University College Cork, at the event.
“The time is now to have critical conversations on the realities of racism in Ireland,” De Sondy added, who is also chair of the institution’s race equality committee.
In addition to ongoing issues with Ireland’s accommodation crisis, which has seen scams and overcrowding, ICOS cited its figures from 2021 saying that four in 10 foreign students studying in Ireland have experienced racism.
“International students, according to the government, are worth €2.2bn to the economy”
On top of these numbers, only around 5% of those who have these experiences actually report the incidents to the Gardai.
“We need the government to step up and show leadership,” commented international human right lawyer and policy lead at the Irish Network Against Racism, Patricia Munatsi, at the event.
“We urgently need hate crime legislation so that all minorities can feel safe. At the same time, we also need a comprehensive national action plan against racism across all aspects of life in Ireland, so that we can tackle racism systemically.’’
ICOS itself is also calling for such a plan to tackle racism and for it to be prioritised by the government.
“[We are also] calling for more support for colleges to develop strategies, training and clear reporting procedures for those who experience racism,” Harmon said.
Harmon also made note in recent days of the Irish Network Against Racism’s iReport tool, which allows international students and others to report their issues and any incidents of racism they are targeted with.
She told Irish radio Newstalk that “there is still fear in relation to reporting an issue”.
“They are afraid that they won’t be taken seriously or that there will be repercussions – or perhaps that they don’t have proof,” she added.
ICOS is asking international students that have had these experiences to take a quick survey to gather more data on the current situation.