|Volume 48 Number 21, July 14, 2018||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
The recent EU summit meeting in Brussels was dominated by what is presented as the continuing problem of migration to Europe, much of it occurring because of the exodus of refugees and asylum seekers across the Mediterranean Sea from Africa, as well as from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. The EU must be condemned for refusing to recognise the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, not least the right to be treated as human beings.
The main aim of the recent EU summit discussions was to prevent refugees and migrants from reaching Europe's borders and if this fails to repatriate them as soon as possible. The measures proposed by the leaders of the EU member states, including Britain, thus placed most emphasis on strengthening their powers to police Europe's borders and to contain what they see as the problem of migration within the borders of Africa and elsewhere. The EU leaders present the plight of refugees and migrants as a question of criminality, dominated by people smugglers and therefore one that must be dealt with by increasingly draconian police powers. At the same time, they employ this distortion of reality as a justification for further intervention within Africa and elsewhere.
For many years, the exodus of refugees has annually resulted in thousands of deaths as desperate migrants, men, women and children, are forced to embark on hazardous journeys across the Mediterranean in vessels that are often unseaworthy. The upsurge in migration to Europe has been part of a global trend and has been fuelled by the desperate economic and political conditions in many parts of Africa, as well as the insecurity and instability that have been created by the interventionist actions of the big powers in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. This was exacerbated by the NATO invasion of Libya in 2010, which not only created a situation of near anarchy in Libya but also throughout the Sahel region of northern Africa.
In the three years between 2014 and 2017 over 12,000 refugees and migrants lost their lives making the attempt to cross the Mediterranean. Over 700 have already died in the crossing this year. The safety of migrants has been made worse by the actions of the EU which has systematically taken measures to curtail search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea, which has led to a threefold increase in deaths. The recent summit has taken further measures to remove what it refers to as "the incentive to embark on perilous journeys" by establishing EU "regional disembarkation platforms", the main aim of which appear to be to return and repatriate as many migrants as possible.
However, in the same period the numbers of refugees who have managed to land in Europe has declined sharply, from over one million in 2015 to just over 172,000 last year. In the first six months of this year only 43,000 people have managed to reach Europe. The EU leaders are now boasting that "illegal border crossings" into the EU have decreased by 95% from 2015. In large part this is because in recent years, the governments of some EU member states have taken unilateral action to try to prevent further mass migration whether from Africa or other non-European regions. For its part the EU has taken measures to support Libyan retention of those seeking refuge in Europe and signed an agreement with Turkey to return some refugees to that country. In turn the government of Turkey, for its part, has sent many refugees back to Syria and Iraq. At the same time Britain, France and the EU have stepped up their intervention in the African continent, using amongst other pretexts the claim that they are combating people-smuggling and establishing alternatives to migration.
The recent EU Summit concluded with further actions along the same lines, also calling for more external capital to flow into Africa, a key contributory factor for the mass impoverishment that currently exists.
The measures enacted by the governments of Britain and the other major powers in Europe do not recognise the right of all human beings to seek refuge from war and devastation, nor the right to food, clothes, shelter and a livelihood. What is more, the big powers do not acknowledge that they and the policies of the EU have been directly responsible for creating the war, instability and poverty which force people to seek refuge far from their homelands. Indeed, the policies of the EU appear to be designed to make the situation worse by creating all the conditions for the further development of people-smuggling and for strengthening the hand of the various militias and authorities in Libya, which have already been condemned by the UN for grave breaches of human rights. At the same time the EU is proposing to establish detention camps in Africa, Europe and elsewhere from where migrants and refugees can be deported back to their homelands. Such death camps already exist in Libya but other African countries have refused to allow them to be established.
The measures taken at the recent EU summit show that there is nothing progressive about an EU which acts as the organisation of the big European monopolies both in Europe and in Africa and elsewhere. It is not the people who are to blame for their plight. The rights of all must be upheld and defended, including the rights of human beings who are migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.