Socialist Worker 383

Refugees are fleeing countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Yemen, Libya, Mali, and Sudan in order to escape from wars, brutal dictatorial regimes and chaos created by foreign military interventions. Memet Uludag of United Against Racism examines the EU response and the background to the crisis.

Just three days after the announcement of the European Commission’s ‘Refugee Resettlement Program’ of 120,000 refugees, an emergency summit of EU heads of states, held on 24th September, ended in disarray.

Fortress Europe

The EU leaders could not agree on anything other than making sure that the closed borders (“Fortress Europe”) policies are intact and everything possible is being done to deter the refugees from coming to Europe.

The summit was a long session of divisions, accusations, blame and numbers games between the EU leaders who were competing with each other in order to take the least possible responsibility for the care and wellbeing of the already much suffering  refugees.

Since the beginning of the current refugee crisis in 2011, the European leaders have continuously ignored the real reasons why people were fleeing to Europe and instead manufactured excuses and lies to justify their racist policies and the inhumanity of condemning thousands of refugees to death. For four years they have watched people dying in the Mediterranean.

In 2015 the situation got worse. The number of deaths increased dramatically thanks to the EU governments ending their rescue missions.

Waves of support

But constant reports of refugee deaths were followed by waves of support for refugees from ordinary European citizens. The previously indifferent leaders were cornered and had to be seen as doing something about the crisis. For a while they made humanitarian speeches and told the world that “something has to be done”.

The pictures of 3 year old refugee child Aylan’s dead body on the beach made the EU leaders cry. But soon, after their fake tears had dried, they retuned back to their original agenda of keeping the refugees out.

The latest Refugee Resettlement Program is a sinister part of this agenda. five years later, by taking in the tiny number of 120,000 refugees over a long period time, without any guarantees of long term protection and care, they are in fact condemning the remaining hundreds of thousands of refugees that will be kept out of Europe to immediate and long lasting misery.

The aim of the EU leaders is clear: Instead of taking the necessary actions to welcome the refugees, they present the EU and the European countries as innocent ‘victims’ of the refugee crisis and the ‘massive influx of refugees’.

The truth is far from that.

The EU as a whole and the EU governments are not innocent ‘victims’ that are at the receiving end of the refugee crisis. In fact they are one of the key architects of the root-cause of the current and previous refugee crises..

The 3 year old Aylan was not the first or the last child to die in search of a safe life. Since 2001 there have been thousands of similar deaths of innocent refugees, including many children. Over the last 10 years, the Mediterranean has turned into a mass grave.

Origins of the crisis

Today’s crisis did not start in 2015.

In 2001 the invasion of Afghanistan as part of the ‘war on terror’ agenda of the Western imperialist powers created over 5 million refugees. Hilary Clinton promised freedom and democracy to Afghani women but after billions of dollars spent on the war and 15 years later there are still more than 2.5 million Afghan refugees, many of them women.

All NATO member states had contributed troops to this US and British led imperialist war. These included many of the European countries, such as Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, and Italy etc. Before Syria overtook it Afghanistan was the world’s biggest source of refugees.

But the wars and invasions of the Western powers in the interest of regional control and controlling oil supplies did not stop with Afghanistan. In 2003, the US-UK led war in Iraq, was again supported by many of the EU and NATO countries.

The war caused the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians and created more than 2 million externally and 1.7 million internally displaced refugees. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees could not return home due to the ongoing sectarian conflicts as a direct result of the Western invasion.

In 2004, the chaos and war in Afghanistan spilled over to Pakistan which resulted in up to 1 million refugees.

In 2011, the military intervention in Libya by EU/NATO countries in order protect their own interests there, under the pretext of ‘getting rid of the dictator Gaddafi’, destroyed the country completely. The intervention and the ongoing chaos in Libya has caused up to 300,000 refugees.

War in Syria

In Syria in 2011, the brutal Assad regime responded to the popular and initially peaceful revolt with brutal military force. Soon after the start of armed conflict between Assad and Syrian opposition forces Syria was been turned into a zone of proxy wars.

The US, Britain and their loyal allies in the region such as Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Turkey on one side, Russia and Iran on the other side have supported and aided various warring factions and further fuelled the war. None of the above forces intervened in Syria for the sake of ordinary Syrian people but to advance their imperialist political and economic interests in the region.

At the beginning of 2012 Syrians started fleeing the country. Today, as the entire country is torn apart by Assad’s army, ISIS and other reactionary forces and the ongoing US bombing, there are now more than five million Syrian refugees.

Currently, the US, NATO and EU backed Saudi regime is bombing Yemen. According to a UN report 20 million people are facing food shortages. The ongoing war is likely to create more hundreds of thousands of refugees. The Saudis are getting their weapons and support from the West.

Globally there are 5 million Palestinian refugees. Because of the ever expanding apartheid Israel, Palestinians continue to become landless. The ongoing siege of Gaza has created horrific conditions for 1.8 million people. Recently a UN report warned that by 2020 Gaza may be uninhabitable. All of this is the making of the US/EU/NATO backed Israeli state.

The total global refugee numbers have reached 60 million. All of these are due to wars, conflicts, murderous oppressive regimes together with environmental disaster caused by ongoing climate change.

The EU is not the victim of influx of refugees; it is one of the creators of this current crisis and crises in the past.

Europe’s response

As the richest continent in the world, Europe does not share any significant per centage of the world’s refugees. The 28 EU countries between them don’t even make it to the top 10 refugee hosting places on earth.

Ireland was never crushed under the weight of asylum seekers and refugees. The Irish state has always had a very low rate of granting refugee status to asylum seekers. It has been maintaining the inhumane Direct Provision System for more than 15 years.

Going back a decade, the Western/EU leaders have had many summits to plan their wars and interventions in the Middle-East, Africa and other places. The imperialist interests and interventions of the western capitalist powers have destroyed many regions.

The refugee crisis is set to continue and it has also turned into a political crisis in Europe. The response of ordinary European citizens has generally been magnificent – much better than that of their governments. There are many refugee support initiatives across Europe.

But we also need to have a firm political response to our government and combat misguided racist arguments in political campaigns, communities etc. aimed at dividing the ordinary people on this issue and giving rise to refugee-migrant hate and racist attacks.

It is the Denis O’Briens and Joan Burtons, the bankers and developers, the David Camerons, Angela Merkels and their corporate friends who are the problem when it comes to ‘looking after our own’, not the refugees.

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