By Jeremy Dewar David Cameron claims, “This migration crisis is the greatest challenge facing Europe today. […] Where we can help, we should.”
How to “help”? By sending warships to aid NATO, not to rescue refugees, but to “stop the desperate flow of people crammed into makeshift vessels from embarking on a fruitless and perilous journey”.
Now we are witnessing grotesque images of those refugees who made the journey being shipped back across the Aegean Sea to the desperately overcrowded and under-resourced Turkish refugee camps they escaped from.
Cameron’s announcement came only hours after another boat sank with the loss of 25 lives, including at least three children.
Cameron claims the blockade is designed to “break the business model of the criminal smugglers” and “send out a clear message to migrants contemplating journeys to Europe that they will be turned back.”
Of course there would be no brutal and unscrupulous smugglers, preying on the refugees, if Europe and Britain granted them asylum – as they agreed to in article 14 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
“Under the EU-Turkey deal, Ankara will take back all refugees and migrants who enter Greece through irregular routes in return for the EU taking in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey via official immigration channels,” reports Al Jazeera.
Par for the course, Britain has opted out of even this paltry offer of asylum (there are about 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey). Not that the European Union keeps its promises: it took in 325 refugees out of the 66,400 it said it would relieve from Greece.
Meanwhile, under pressure from the British government, French police have started to dismantle the makeshift refugee camp in Calais, dubbed the Jungle, evicting those who are seeking asylum in Britain. They claim the site is squalid and dangerous. Of course it is. There is little aid – except that provided by the heroic efforts of British and French socialists and anti-racist campaigners.
Yet the justification for sending in the police is the same hypocritical excuse our rulers use for their wars: it is, would you believe, a “humanitarian intervention”!
Under pressure, the French state is offering to house a quarter of the Jungle’s population, including just 200 places for women and 30 for 500 unaccompanied children. The “Socialist” government wants to forcibly disperse them to emergency settlement centres across France – out of the way of prying cameras.
For those who did make it to the UK, conditions are only marginally better. According to a UK prison inspectors’ report, last summer more than 3,500 migrants were detained in “wholly unacceptable” conditions, lacking in human decency. The Dover Seaport facility was “crowded, poorly ventilated and smelled”. And one in Folkestone was crammed with 822 men: no windows, nowhere to rest, no shower facilities and the pay phone did not work. Both units were contracted out to private security firm Tascor.
And as you look further south and east across the EU, the disgrace of Dover and the tragedy of Calais are repeated. Each country is reinforcing its borders, demanding the country preceding them blocks the flow of human suffering, until they end up in the poorest country of all, Greece, or in Turkey with its authoritarian government and violently anti-Kurd army, which of course EU and NATO members turn a blind eye to.
So much for the “Europe of solidarity”, one of the supposed cornerstones of the EU. The razor wire “wall” along the Hungarian border is notorious, but now Belgium has reintroduced controls – along its border with France.
European solidarity has always been a myth. Freedom of movement has only ever applied to EU citizens. Against the rest of the world, the EU has erected an increasingly militarised Fortress Europe. But Britain never even agreed to Schengen, maintaining much tougher border controls, even to the rest of the EU.
Home Secretary Theresa May has announced a “tough new plan for asylum”:
- Narrowing the definition of a refugee to apply only to a short list of unstable countries that would include Syria but not Eritrea, for example
- Limiting asylum claims to being processed only in neighbouring countries, not on arrival in the UK
- Strengthening the right to deport refugees the moment their country of origin is deemed “safe”
Tory Britain, which has offered to take only 20,000 Syrians over the next five years, wants to operate a quota system: described by one immigration lawyer as a “one in, one out” policy.
This proves beyond doubt that the “independent” Britain of the Tory Eurosceptics and the EU Cameron and May want to build has nothing in common with the Europe socialists want. Jeremy Corbyn has rightly committed the Labour Party to campaigning to stay in Europe but castigated Cameron’s deal:
“He should have been focused on the scandal of the refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk and how to deal with Europe’s migration crisis in an equitable way.” But we need to go even further.
We need to say – let the victims of the wars fomented by Britain, France, the USA and its allies in the Middle East find refuge in all the European states including the UK. We need to stand up to the racist bigots like Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen and combat the vile tabloid lies of the Daily Mail and Charlie Hebdo.
The appeal for solidarity and basic human decency will be answered, if it is made courageously by working class parties and trade unions. The initial response to the crisis of ordinary Germans, on the streets and at the train stations, indicates that.
Refugees can be welcomed easily by the richest continent on the planet without “overstraining” our health and welfare systems – indeed Jeremy Hunt has consented to 5,000 Indian doctors coming to fill the gaps he created in the NHS. Europe’s 468 billionaires can fund any necessary assistance if we raid their offshore tax havens.
Those who want to stay as near as possible to their homelands should be given housing, healthcare, education and jobs, again paid for by the warmongering NATO states and Russia.
In a word we need to stand firm against the racist stigmatisation of refugees and so-called economic migrants too. A working class movement that does so will be all the stronger in its fight against the real forces trying to run down or privatise our public housing, education, health and welfare systems.
Especially if it is coordinated, starting in the EU but across the globe, a crucial step towards a new, Fifth International.