Refugees Flee Imperialist War, Face Racism in Europe
From Liberation News
The U.S. government and other western imperialist powers are trying to deflect blame from a growing number of migrant and human rights organizations for their role in what is being labeled “the European refugee crisis,” which has become a growing humanitarian disaster.
According to new figures by the International Organization for Migration, over 332,000 refugees have crossed the Mediterranean Sea this year alone in an attempt to reach Europe—nearly a 40 percent increase over the year before, which was already a record year for immigration into Europe.
Most of the refugees are coming from countries—like Syria—that are currently being militarily targeted by the United States and its allies, or from countries feeling the aftereffects of U.S. military intervention such as Afghanistan and Libya. Others come from countries that have not been militarily targeted by imperialism but suffer from the devastating effects of Western-imposed trade and economic conditions that have led to underdevelopment and poverty.
The IOM states that at least 2,636 people have died attempting to migrate to Europe, but these numbers could be much higher.
The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva said Friday that “200,000 migrants have landed in Greece alone,” making it the largest point of entry for migrants into Europe.
Just this past Monday, Greece’s coast guard reported that it had found 2,492 refugees at sea off the eastern islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Agathonissi, Farmakonissi, Kos and Symi in only three days.
According to the Associated Press, the vast majority of those arriving in Greece are Syrian and Afghan refugees who are not looking to make Greece their new home but instead see Greece as a first step in a long journey into more prosperous European countries like Germany or Austria. Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary have seen tens of thousands of refugees traveling through their countries.
A deadly journey
The International Organization of Migration estimates that at least “3,072 migrants died in the Mediterranean in 2014, compared to an estimate of 700 in 2013.” These figures correlate with the rise of Western backed armed militias and NATO air-strikes in both Syria and Libya in 2013. This year is on track to break the 2014 record of deaths at sea by a few hundred at least. Overall, since the year 2000, IOM estimates that “over 22,000 migrants have lost their lives” trying to reach Europe. Earlier this year, 400 refugees drowned off the coast of Libya in an attempt to escape a country left in chaos after U.S. and NATO intervention.
This massive tragedy was made worse by the lack of public attention shown. However, over the past few weeks public outrage over the refugee crisis in Europe has been growing due to highly publicized images and news reports being circulated over social media.
Austrian media reported last week the discovery of 71 dead refugees who suffocated after being stuffed inside of a truck in Austria, and on Wednesday the photo of a 3-year-old Syrian child, identified as Aylan, shown washed up, face down and presumably dead on a beach in Turkey. These reports and images serve to highlight the deadly nature and human toll of these sorts of forced migrations, though they fail to provide proper context as to why these tragedies continue to occur. These images when placed in proper context should serve to bolster the message that not only should migrants be given the ability to safely immigrate but imperialist wars of aggression must end and reparations be paid to the Libyan and Afghan people.
As Somali-British poet Warsan Shire wrote, “You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” This is the truth behind the bodies of poor men women and children found in borders across the world. Migration in a capitalist system where the world is split into haves and have nots is not a choice but a forced act of desperation.
Racism deals a double blow
The families that do make it across the sea into Europe face little reprieve from their ordeal, due to the presence of anti-immigrant sentiment from both politicians and residents of European countries.
In Germany, for instance, there have been violent clashes between neo-Nazis and security staff outside refugee centers.
Recently, hundreds of German racists protested outside a shelter near the city of Dresden, blocking access and hurling abuse at 250 refugees hoping to arrive there.
The racists threw stones, bottles and firecrackers. The police retaliated with tear gas and sealed off the building that was going to house 600 refugees.
Germany has seen record numbers of attacks on the homes of refugees this year, with some shelters subject to arson attacks. Racist organizations have even been encouraging people to sign up to “no refugee camps in my neighborhood” campaigns, further feeding into the demonization and criminalization of these families simply looking to make a living.
A proposal by the European Commission to implement a quota system for Western countries to share the number of asylum seekers has so far been rejected by many countries, including Britain and United States.
Recently, in an opinion piece for Germany’s Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said his country was being “overrun” with refugees, adding most were not Christians but Muslims.
“That is an important question, because Europe and European culture have Christian roots. Or is it not already and in itself alarming that Europe’s Christian culture is barely in a position to uphold Europe’s own Christian values?” he asked in a clear Islamophobic attack.
“The people want us to master the situation and protect our borders,” he continued. “Only when we have protected our borders can questions be asked about the numbers of people we can take in, or whether there should be quotas.”
Similar to U.S. racists like Donald Trump and many others, Hungary is building a 110-mile-long fence along its border with Serbia to keep out an accelerating flow of refugees entering from the south.
What makes this xenophobia more stunning is the fact that Europe can easily absorb these refugees. It has grown rich off the exploitation of not only its own working class but oppressed countries around the world pillaged by colonialism and imperialism.
The “crisis” is therefore not a problem of ability or capacity but lack of political will. This is really not a crisis of immigration but a manifestation of the inhumanity of capitalist governments who continue to waffle in their response to help the people from the countries they have destabilized. From Germany to the UK, these countries use “border control and resource allocation” as excuses for their inhumanity, which simply serves to add fuel to the fire of hate and xenophobia.