A year ago, in April 2015, the EU finally woke up to the horrific reality of the refugee crisis on its doorsteps.
First, it was the news of a refugee boat sinking with the loss of 400 lives. A week later more than 700 refugees had died in another Mediterranean shipwreck. In the first four months of 2015 the refugee deaths had reached over 1500 – 30 times higher than the number in the same period in 2014.
These deaths came shortly after the EU had stopped the search and rescue mission ‘Mare Nostrum’. They saw Mare Nostrum as a ‘pull factor’ for refugees.
September 2015 was a turning point. When the pictures of the 3 year old refugee Alan Kurdî, lying dead on a beach, hit the world media, there was a panic among the European rulers and a very strong sense of solidarity among the ordinary people of Europe. Thousands took to the streets in support of refugees and demanding the opening of the borders. The EU leaders were caught red faced.
But the crocodile tears of the EU leaders have dried and very quickly they have returned to business as usual. Various emergency EU summits, negotiations etc. led to a refugee re-settlement program that would take in the very small number of 120,000 refugees and share them between EU countries.
But, behind the scenes, the real agenda in the EU was to close the European borders and stop the refugees from entering Europe. European leaders played the ‘victim-Europe’ card and presented the refugee crisis as a problem that overwhelmed the entire EU.
The current crisis had in fact not begun in 2014/15 but in 2011. Furthermore, there was already an ongoing very serious refugee crisis since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003.
Iraq and Afghanistan topped the list of countries where refugees came from during the last 15 years. The current war in Syria has so far displaced more than 9 million people and most of the refugees are in various countries in the Middle-East. Up until 2014/15, the EU didn’t have to ‘deal’ with the refugees because they were far away from EU borders.
By the end of 2015 the refugee re-settlement program had collapsed and only less than 0.2% of the agreed EU quota were re-settled. Ireland had taken less than 100 refugees by early 2016, a massive difference from the 2500 that was promised by the Irish Government.
In 2016 the refugee crisis turned into a political crisis in the EU and the European governments have reacted brutally. The time for pretended humanitarianism was over. Despite the worsening conditions in Syria and the deaths of more than 400 refugees in the first 2 months of 2016, the EU has set out to implement the harshest and most racist measures yet: the full closures of EU borders, establishing detention centres in Greece and other countries, military patrols in the Aegean and an active mass deportation programme.
The EU has entered into a series of negotiations with Turkey, with a view to outsource the tasks of border control and detention of refugees. Furthermore, Turkey is facilitating the EU-deportation program.
There are already NATO ships in the Aegean patrolling international and Greek/Turkish territorial waters and returning refugees to Turkey. The aim of this new deal is to stop the refugees from crossing into Europe and deport most of those who got here last year. The deal between EU and Turkey is a deal against basic human rights and it will cause the suffering and deaths of many more refugees.
The EU governments are directly responsible for the horrors in the Middle-East and beyond that created millions of refugees over the past 15 years. Then the ongoing economic crisis is used as an excuse by the very same governments to shut the doors on refugees. There are solutions to homelessness and unemployment but the EU government are not interested in the wellbeing of the majority of ordinary working class people.
Furthermore, many of the EU leaders have turned the whole refugee issue into an outright racist debate.
Today in Europe the fight against racism is vitally important. Racism divides us, creates fear and hate and is a key mechanism for diverting mass anger at austerity onto scapegoats. The refugee crisis has given racist, Islamophobic and fascist movements an excuse to mobilise and spread their propaganda.
UNITED AGAINST RACISM invites all anti-racists, NGO’s, trade unions, community groups and anti-racist political parties to support and endorse the INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST RACISM rally on March 19th and build the fight against racism together.