|Volume 47 Number 10, May 27, 2017||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
It was recently reported that representatives of the governments of Italy and Germany called on the EU to establish a mission on the border of Libya and Niger, ostensibly to curtail the numbers of migrants and refugees who eventually cross the Mediterranean and arrive in Europe. Ministers of the Interior from Italy and Germany wrote a joint letter to the EU Commission in early May stating that more must be done to "prevent that hundreds of thousands of people once again risk their lives in Libya and on the Mediterranean Sea in the hands of smugglers".
In fact, this demand is a request for an extension of the existing EUCAP Sahel Niger mission, part of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), begun in 2012 to allegedly give "security" advice to the government of Niger. Already over 120 representatives of European security forces and justice departments are deployed in Niamey, the country's capital. Since 2014 EUCAP personnel have also been deployed in Agadez, central Niger, specifically to deal with migration and other perceived threats to Europe and in regular liaison with other CSDP missions including EUCAP Sahel Mali and the EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) Libya. The current head of EUBAM, which "supports the Libyan authorities in developing border management and security" is a representative of the Italian government, who has been based in Libya for over a decade.
However, despite this and other extensive intervention by the EU and individual EU countries in North Africa and the Sahel already this year over 50,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean and landed in Italy, nearly all of them making the crossing from Libya. A recently leaked report from the German government claims that there are potentially as many as 2.5 million people waiting in North Africa to make the perilous sea journey to Europe. The report claims that numbers have risen by 650,000 since January. Around 1m are in Libya, a similar number in Egypt, around 430,000 in Algeria and smaller numbers in Morocco and Tunisia. Some of these originate from Africa, but others are fleeing from conflicts in Syria, Iraq, or fleeing from poverty and instability from other countries in Asia. Libya has been a favoured route since its government was overthrown by military intervention by Britain and the other NATO powers in 2011. Since that time, the country has been in a state of almost total anarchy, with rival governments and militias vying for power, and parts of the country in the hands of so-called Islamic State and other terrorist organisations.
However, as the leaked report suggests Libya is not the only embarkation point in North Africa, and it is also claimed that over 3m migrants are presently being held in Turkey, prevented from crossing into Europe by the Turkish government, which concluded an agreement for that purpose with the EU. The German government is apparently seeking similar agreements between the EU and North African countries. For its part, the Italian government has recently signed its own agreements with Niger, Libya and Chad to stem the flow of migrants and refugees passing through these countries. It is also attempting to establish reception centres for migrants and asylum seekers in these countries, although such centres in Libya have already been condemned as simply detention centres notorious for violence, torture and rape. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has already urged the Libyan authorities to release all asylum seekers from such centres.
It appears that Italy, Germany and other EU countries are using the global refugee crisis as the means not only to extend Europe's border controls far into Africa, but also to extend their meddling in the internal affairs of several African countries. The measures that have been taken in the Mediterranean and in North Africa and elsewhere have had no impact on the global exodus that is a consequence of impoverishment and economic underdevelopment caused by colonial and neo-colonial rule, and more recent neo-liberal globalisation. In addition, the mass movement of people is a direct result of the instability and armed conflicts in the world, caused largely by the intervention of Britain and the other big powers. The response of Britain and the other big powers is to use the consequences of intervention, such as the anarchy in Libya, as the justification for further intervention in Africa and other parts of the world in line with their geo-political and other aims. This course of action will only exacerbate such problems and bring further suffering to millions. There is an urgent need for the people of Britain, other European countries and elsewhere to take a stand against the actions of the big powers which are creating such havoc throughout the world.