- Created: Thursday, 16 August 2018 10:22
- Written by FRFI
Anti-facist protest in solidarity with migrants in Macerata Italy, March 2018
On 28 June at an emergency summit of the European Council (EC), EU leaders agreed proposals which will further escalate the suffering of migrants who struggle through the repressive borders of Fortress Europe. The proposals will do nothing to deal with the root cause of the so called ‘migrant crisis’ and include such oppressive measures as creating more ‘processing [detention] centres’ inside the EU and further outsourcing border controls to non-EU and north African countries. Annemie Most reports.
As revealed by The Guardian, over the past 25 years there have been 34,361 documented deaths of refugees and migrants caused by the ‘restrictive policies’ of Fortress Europe. The actual numbers are sure to be much higher as this figure only covers documented deaths. Fractured Europe’s repressive border controls are being increasingly tightened and the journey across the Mediterranean is becoming increasingly deadly. This year alone there were 1,000 such deaths by 1 July, making this the fourth consecutive year in which over 1,000 have died on the journey through the Mediterranean.1 Although migrant arrivals in Europe across the Mediterranean from Africa and Turkey are at their lowest level in five years, the drive towards hardline, militarised and closed borders was at the top of the EC summit agenda.
Italy and the Mediterranean
Italy’s coalition government, led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and made up of the far-right anti-immigration Lega party and anti-immigration ‘populist’ Five Star Movement, used the summit to demand more support to deal with migrants arriving in the country. Conte urged other EU member states to agree to take in migrants saved in the Mediterranean to alleviate the ‘burden’ on Italy and Greece, where ‘hotspots’ had been set up in 2015 to receive and process migrants before moving them on. These had then become overcrowded and inhumane detention centres as other EU member states failed to take in the number of migrants they had agreed to. The summit agreed that similar ‘secure centres to receive migrants’ would be set up on a voluntary basis in EU countries but it has not been specified where.
Point 3 of the summit’s published conclusions reads: ‘As regards the Central Mediterranean Route, efforts to stop smugglers operating out of Libya or elsewhere should be further intensified...All vessels operating in the Mediterranean must respect the applicable laws and not obstruct operations of the Libyan Coastguard.’2
This is a threat aimed at NGOs undertaking search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean, who have often been warned off helping migrant ships by the Libyan Coastguard. Despite the fact that refugee and migrant arrivals are half the number they were last year, and down 81% on 2016, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini has been pushing for migrants saved on boats run by NGOs to be denied entry to the country, and called for a total closure of its ports.
The reality of the consequences of Italy’s repressive approach to immigration was brought to the international fore when rescue ship Aquarius and its 630 passengers were finally given permission to dock in Spain on 17 June, after being denied safe access by both Italy and Malta. The ship operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres had rescued the passengers, who included 123 unaccompanied children, 11 babies and seven pregnant women from attempting the treacherous journey from Libya to Sicily in small boats. Many of the passengers on board the Aquarius had been subjected to sexual violence and enslavement in Libya before escaping.
German government divided over immigration policy
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel had hoped to use the summit to unite her splintered coalition government and show her right wing critics, in particular the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, that she has immigration under control, without jeopardising the Schengen passport-free area which is key to jobs and free trade.
The divided coalition is comprised of Merkel’s party, the conservative centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its sister party the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Hard-line anti-immigrant CSU Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had threatened to close Germany’s borders if Merkel could not find a solution to the immigration ‘problem’. On 3 July Merkel announced to the German parliament a compromise package, whereby ‘transit zones’ would be created along the southern German border to speed up the deportation of asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected, and bilateral deals would be struck with countries outside Europe to make it easier to deport migrants back to them. Opposition to the planned ‘transit zones’ has come from the left-wing members of the SPD, who are concerned that they will be nothing more than detention centres or prisons for migrants, and also pointing out that only five asylum seekers a day are attempting to cross into Germany through this southern border. So far the SPD has been unable to decide if it will agree to the proposal.
Fight borders with solidarity
Pro-imperialist EU governments enforce reactionary policies on immigration, utilising and stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment to exacerbate divisions among the working class and in an attempt to regulate immigration to suit the needs of capital.
It remains clear that the cause of the deplorable and ongoing ‘migrant crisis’ is not the numbers fleeing the war, death and destitution imperialism wreaks upon exploited nations across the globe, but the political tactics and policies enforced by the very imperialist powers who have created this heinous humanitarian crisis, to protect super profits extracted from the exploited. As FRFI has always argued, the only solution to this ‘crisis’ is to build socialism and defend the rights of the entire working class. The role of working class movements in Britain must therefore be to support and connect with the struggle of this super-exploited section, immigrants and refugees, and to fight against repressive and racist border controls in this country.
1. Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, ‘Mediterranean: more than 200 migrants drown in three days’, www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/03/mediterranean-migrants-drown-three-days-libya-italy
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 265 August/September 2018