Frontex – the face of Fortress Europe and Support sacked cleaners! and Sans-papiers struggle in France

‘...with external land borders of 8,000 km and sea borders of 80,000 km, migration to [Europe] is a considerable attraction for those seeking the chance of a better life, or simply trying to escape from their own countries for whatever reason. The abolition of nearly all the internal borders makes it all the more important that the external borders should be efficiently policed, and that there should be close cooperation between the border guards of the different States.’
(FRONTEX: the EU external borders agency, House of Lords Report 2007-08)

The EU Borders Agency Frontex was set up in 2004, the year the EU expanded to include eight countries in Eastern Europe. Its head office is in Warsaw and it became operational in October 2005. Frontex is responsible for strengthening Fortress Europe technologically and militarily, and co-ordinating the deportation of unwanted intruders more efficiently. It is doing this by attempting to pool resources, not an easy task in a time of national tensions between European countries. For example, in 2006 when Spain pressed for more support in blocking immigration via the Canary Islands, Germany, Austria and Italy initially objected. Similarly, the House of Lords report concludes that ‘a major problem has been the failure of some member states actually to make available the resources they have promised’. Despite these tensions, strengthening Fortress Europe is a high priority for all member states. This is reflected in Frontex’s considerable increase in power and resources. In 2005 it started with a budget of €6.2 million. By 2008 its draft budget was over €70 million.

One recent development is the consolidation and training of Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITs). These are mixed teams of national border guards that can be deployed at short notice. There is currently a pool of 629 border policemen drawn from 25 of the 27 EU member states – the exceptions being Ireland and the UK, which are not part of the Schengen Agreement and cannot therefore participate fully in Frontex. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini referred to RABITs as ‘the best ever example of European solidarity’.

Frontex is also responsible for ‘co-operation’ with third countries, such as Senegal and Libya. In September 2006, for example, mass deportations from Spain to Senegal became possible, following negotiations with the Senegalese government, which had previously refused to accept those without papers. Since the talks, joint patrols have taken place in Senegalese waters and Senegalese authorities have been to the Canary Islands, employing dubious methods involving facial characteristics and dialect to identify migrants.

On 30 August 2008 Italy and Libya signed a friendship, partnership and co-operation treaty, which included an agreement to set up a border control system for Libyan land borders, with Italy providing half the funding. Italy already funds detention centres in Libya, which are notorious for poor conditions and human rights abuses.

As Fortress Europe is strengthened, desperate migrants are forced to use increasingly perilous routes, resulting in hundreds of deaths each year. Dutch NGO ‘UNITED for Intercultural Action’ estimates that 11,105 deaths since 1993 can be attributed to European border controls and immigration laws. The vast majority occur at sea, where overcrowded and flimsy boats often capsize or sink and migrants can be forced to go for weeks without adequate food and water. In the first four months of 2008 alone there were 23 incidents in which 90 migrants died from drowning, starvation and dehydration.
No to Fortress Europe!
Fight all Europe’s racist immigration laws!
Annabelle Richardson

For more information see Frontexwatch

Support sacked cleaners!

On 21 November 2008, five Latin American migrant cleaners at National Physical Laboratories (NPL) in London lost their appeal against their sacking by cleaning contractors Amey plc.

Amey, which has an annual turnover of £75m, took over the NPL contract in December 2006. Faced with a well-organised and recently unionised workforce of mainly Latin American migrants, Amey took immediate steps to attack working conditions and fragment the workforce in order to drive down costs. One of its first acts was to summon all the workers to what turned out to be a fake training session: the doors were then bolted and the police summoned. Seven workers were taken away by police and three subsequently deported.

Eventually ten workers were expected to do the work of 36; terms and conditions were changed without consultation and grievance procedures ignored. Five Amey cleaners protested and started leafleting other NPL staff. They were suspended for ‘bringing the company into disrepute’ and then sacked.

Similar attacks on migrant workers have been carried out elsewhere. Amey is a major shareholder in Tubelines, which cleans part of the London Underground. Tube cleaners, who went on strike against low pay in the summer, were then subjected to a wave of immigration raids and deportations. British companies are happy to use migrant labour as long as it means their profits grow on the backs of low pay and oppressive working conditions; the moment workers organise, the full force of Britain’s racist laws is marshalled against them.

The sacked Amey workers, who have organised regular protests, meetings and pickets since their dismissal in September, are taking their case to an employment tribunal and the fight goes on. On 8 December, there will be a protest outside Amey headquarters in Oxford.
Cat Wiener
For more information contact latin_

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Support sacked cleaners!

The occupation of the Bourse du Travail in Paris by the Coordination des sans-papiers 75 (CSP75) entered its eighth month on 2 December 2008 (see FRFI 205 for background). 1,300 workers are now involved in one of the longest occupations in the history of the movement of undocumented migrants.

The General Confederation of Labour (CGT) had tried to retain total control over the migrant workers’ regularisation movement, accepting government-imposed criteria and ‘case- by-case legalisation’. The occupation of the CGT-owned Bourse building began after the Paris police authority rejected 1,000 CSP75 workers’ files on the pretext that they were not submitted by the CGT and the CGT refused to submit them because the workers were not CGT members.

The CGT has lied that the occupied building is infested with rats and that drugs are being dealt there in order to justify forcible expulsion of the migrants. Paris CGT Secretary Remi Picaud accused the CSP75 of ‘exploiting people in a dramatic situation’ and CGT thugs attacked a CSP75 stall at the Communist Party-run Fête de l’Humanité. In October, after three months of either ignoring or threatening the CSP75, the CGT proposed ‘joint actions’ in exchange for the CSP75 leaving the Bourse, but it still refused to support the CSP75’s 1,000 cases.

There has also been constant harassment by the police who surround the building, watching and photographing the occupants. Arrests are a daily occurrence and on 16 November the first migrant to take part in the occupation, Mamadou Diarra, was deported to Mali.

However, the struggle continues and sans-papiers continue to hold protest marches every Wednesday and Friday. Meanwhile, in Ponts de Cé near Angers, homeless asylum seekers and their supporters have squatted a former police station.
Victory to the sans-papiers!
No to immigration controls!
Charles Chinweizu


FRFI 206 December 2008 / January 2009


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