“The real damage is done by those millions who want to “survive”. The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves”
Imagine that you are in an exclusive Irish restaurant, and the waiter places a succulent piece of meat in front of you while he tells you: “This fine piece of national meat is recognised worldwide as one of the best”. It looks delicious to your eyes; you can see it right in front of you. But, can you see the brown hands that have cut that meat in the cold basement of a factory during the early morning?
You can see all that and more, but maybe you don’t want to see it at all.
Last week the police and social services carried out a raid in a small town in Ireland. After besieging a meat production company, the police searched the workers’ documentation, most of them from non-European countries and, not surprisingly, discovered that many had no documentation or fake identification papers. However, the police have emphasised that this is an action directed against international human trafficking networks and that they don’t want to criminalise those involved.
However, two days later, the Irish Independent newspaper headlined an article reporting the event: “Garda target South American gang after raid finds a significant number of illegal immigrants working in Meath factory”. Another newspaper, Irish Mirror, headlined: “Illegal workers interviewed and documentation seized after a multi-agency search operation in Meath“, the popular LMFM radio said: “Illegal immigrant workers found in Meath as part of Human Trafficking investigation”.
As we can see, the media reported the raid in a way that adds to the stigmatisation of the immigrant population, their sense of insecurity, and the worsening of their living conditions. These things are easy to produce but not easy to mend.
However, these newspapers do not reference the wealth these immigrants produce for the factory owners, the taxes they pay, the rents they pay, and all the benefits they generate for the local economies where these workers spend their wages.
Despite having expired or false documents, the media forgot to say that these people were working and benefiting the country’s economy. Also, they were working to improve their living conditions. I repeat: these people were working and not on a street corner plotting crimes. They were working gruelling shifts earning minimum wage (€10.50 per hour), paying skyrocketing rent and paying taxes. Maybe this is not different from what many undocumented Irish people are doing in the United States, New Zealand, Australia or England. But we don’t have to go that far.
Aren’t they workers that this country needs to keep hotels and restaurants going, sanitise and clean the planes that take people on holiday, and fill supermarket drawers? So why then criminalise migrants without saying all the benefits that they have produced and that you enjoy without even realising it?
To you, who are reading this text, I ask only one thing, when you are enjoying that beautiful piece of meat, be clear that this wonder was produced by a human being who earns the minimum wage, a person devoted, like you, to their family and their well-being. Someone who works while you sleep; someone who has scars on their hands and will probably never eat the meat they produce or go to that restaurant where you, for now, are sitting enjoying yourself.
Photo: Sebastian Silva: https://a-visual-diary-for-tomorrow.tumblr.com/