Anti-racism campaign launched on public transport

Racist crimes continue to rise according to latest data from State’s tracking system

Sammy Akorede from Luas and Elaine Doyle from Local Link Wexford launch the largest national transport anti-racism campaign, aimed at “a message of zero tolerance” of racism. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Sammy Akorede from Luas and Elaine Doyle from Local Link Wexford launch the largest national transport anti-racism campaign, aimed at “a message of zero tolerance” of racism. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Public transport bodies across Ireland have commenced an anti-racism campaign in an attempt to stamp out rising incidences of prejudice on buses, trains, trams and taxis.

More than 1,000 posters will be displayed on public transport networks across the State over the coming fortnight encouraging customers to report racist abuse or violence.

The campaign, which is run by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Transport for Ireland and Dublin City Council, seeks to promote “a message of zero tolerance” towards racism in Ireland.

One in six Dublin Bus employees comes from a migrant background with 70 different countries represented within the company’s staff. Bus Éireann’s 2,536 employees come from 33 different backgrounds, while Iarnród Éireann, which employs 3,832 people, has 23 different backgrounds among its staff. Luas operator Transdev says its 264 employees represent 30 different nationalities.

Anne Graham, chief executive of Transport for Ireland, warned against complacency towards racism and called on public transport users to call out any incidences of prejudice and intolerance.

“Ireland has become more diverse and more mature in recent years, and the staff who deliver our public transport services certainly reflect these positive changes. However, that doesn’t mean we can be complacent, and prejudice and intolerance – whoever the target may be – need to be tackled head-on.”

Positive signs

Rasa Mikalauskiene, who is originally from Lithuania and is a bus driver with Bus Éireann, says it’s important to run campaigns that highlight racism within the industry. Ms Mikalauskiene, who drives a bus on the west Cork route to Skibbereen and Bantry, says she experienced racism in previous workplaces before moving to Bus Éireann but that now she feels “comfortable” and “respected”.

“I’ve been doing this route for 10 years and my customers know me and I know everyone’s names and even their surnames. I don’t feel foreign, I feel normal.”

Recorded incidents of racism in Ireland have continued to rise in recent years with 245 reports of racist crimes made through the State’s tracking system, the European Network Against Racism (Enar), between July-December 2016, up from 190 reports in the first six months of 2016.

However, research has found that most refugees and migrants choose not to report racist crimes to gardaí and keep their heads down for fear of being considered troublemakers.

The State’s failure to introduce hate crime legislation also discourages people from reporting crimes to the Garda Pulse system, according to experts in hate crime who earlier this year called for the introduction of legislation “as a matter of urgency”.

Greater understanding

However, Irish Rail revenue officer Happymore Karigomba, who moved to Ireland from Zimbabwe in 2000 and has worked with the company for 16 years, says incidences of racism are falling. In the past, Mr Karigomba was often the victim of racist remarks when fining customers without a valid ticket but says people today have a greater understanding of the State’s increasingly diverse population.

“The general outlook I have now is that our society has become more multicultural and instances of this nature are on the decline,” Mr Karigomba said. “In the past I sometimes experienced racism from older generations and younger people who were just trying to avoid their fares. But these anti-racism campaigns do work. We’re seeing the change.”

If you witness or experience racism on any Irish public transport network, contact stopracism@immigrantcouncil.ie