Fortress Europe

Fortress Europe

Thousands of migrants and refugees are still arriving at the borders of the EU and, in response, Europe’s major imperialist powers continue to increase repression. Racist opposition to immigrants has given Prime Minister Theresa May licence to make freedom of movement a non-negotiable part of Britain’s exit from the European Union, and, at the start of January, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn stated that he was ‘not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle’. Tom Vickers reports.

There is no fundamental contradiction between the ‘Fortress Europe’ policy of the EU and the ‘Little England’ policy of pro-Brexit sections of the British ruling class: both are determined to exclude from Europe those forced to flee the wars, poverty, environmental destruction and repression that imperialism has fostered and to outsource the repression necessary for this to Europe’s periphery.

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Fortress Europe – the death toll rises

fortress europe

The EU is reorganising its border controls, in an effort to maintain the divide between workers of oppressed and imperialist countries and to contain the consequences of its overt and covert wars in the Middle East and North Africa. Britain and other European imperialist powers rely on super-profits extracted from oppressed countries, with rates of return from UK Foreign Direct Investment of 9% in Africa and 13% in Asia in 2014, compared to 5% returns on FDI in the UK, and a net transfer of £45bn each year out of Africa. To protect this super-exploitation European imperialist states do whatever is necessary to prevent people from oppressed countries from moving where better wages and conditions are available, and to limit their rights if they manage to get there. But people on the move continue to resist these restrictions, leading to a constant struggle at Europe’s borders.

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Calais resists

In February a French court authorised the demolition of the 70,000 square metre southern section of the ‘jungle’ refugee camp in Calais. Prior to the ruling, French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve claimed that ‘it was never a question of evacuating the south zone in a brutal fashion’ but he has a poor memory, because as recently as January bulldozers were brought in to demolish an estimated 20% of the camp, housing approximately 1,500 people (see FRFI 249). Following the ruling, a brutal and violent eviction of the camp began, with the CRS (French ‘anti-riot’ police) using tear gas, and burning down shelters.

The migrant residents of the camp have continued to resist. Twelve Iranian asylum seekers began a hunger strike on 2 March, with demands including an end to forced eviction and an end to the use of tear gas.

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Migration crisis- Europe’s violence unmasked

The death toll at Europe’s borders continues to rise, with at least 525 people reported dead or missing between 1 January and 20 March 2016. This is a direct result of the EU’s restrictive border controls, which disproportionately affect refugees and migrants from oppressed countries. There is no let-up in the wars, poverty and repression that force people to move, and so the repressive measures of European states do not stop people attempting to enter Europe, but only add to the death and misery, as well as removing rights from a section of workers who then become subject to super-exploitation. Tom Vickers reports

The main countries of origin for refugees and migrants seeking to enter Europe via the Mediterranean are Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq – all of which have been subject to murderous and destructive imperialist interventions in recent years. Research recently published by the MEDMIG project has confirmed earlier findings that many migrants have little information about immigration policies in their countries of destination and often make ad hoc decisions en route about which country to move to, showing that more restrictive immigration policies do not stop people trying to reach Europe. The research also confirms that increased restrictions have ‘led to protracted and fragmented journeys and make it increasingly difficult for people to safely and legally access protection and employment’.

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Fortress Europe kills to protect imperialism

Europe has the deadliest borders in the world, claiming more than 4,000 lives in 2015. The increased risk of winter crossings has not stopped those desperate to flee war, persecution, or poverty: in December 2015 an estimated 4,000 people per day crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece, and on 2 January 2016 the first death of the year was recorded when a two-year-old fell out of a boat that hit rocks off the Greek island of Agathonisi. Migrants have also renewed attempts to enter the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, with hundreds scaling the fences or swimming round them, but being forced back with violence by Moroccan forces and the Spanish Guardia Civil. During January 162 people were reported dead or missing at Europe’s borders; the actual figure is likely to be higher. Tom Vickers reports.

During 2015 more than 1.2 million people arrived by sea and land at the borders of Europe. Although a significant increase on the previous year, this is equivalent to only 0.24% of Europe’s population. Such numbers could easily be accommodated given Europe’s wealth, much of which has been plundered from other countries. The deaths that result from European states’ refusal to allow refugees and migrants safe passage is therefore a political choice, based on the defence of a barbaric capitalist system that cares nothing for human lives.

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