Fortress Europe

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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.

The number of recorded deaths at Europe’s borders in 2016 exceeded 5,000, 30% higher than the figure for 2015 despite lower numbers of people attempting to enter the EU: this is the result of increasing restrictions which have forced people to use more dangerous routes. More people continue to die in sea crossings and in camps across Europe as a result of freezing temperatures. More than 2,000 refugees are camped in Belgrade, held in limbo just outside the EU’s borders. Germany has announced that from March 2017 it will resume deportations to Greece after a five-year suspension. In France, the government has announced a zero-tolerance policy towards makeshift shelters. Médècins Sans Frontières reports that police are harassing migrants who can’t get into Paris’s one overcrowded shelter, including waking them in the middle of the night, using teargas, and preventing them from sitting down as they queue for a place in the shelter.

In Britain, the government called a halt to transfers of unaccompanied child refugees from France in December, after accepting just 750, leaving stranded an estimated 1,000 who have a legal right to enter on the basis of family reunification. In the same month, a week-long operation targeted hundreds of nail bars, leading to 97 arrests on immigration grounds. The government’s commitment to ‘integration’ is a sham: the funding allocated under the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund in 2016 included £58m allocated to deportations, and £600,000 to support unaccompanied children, which is £109 per child.

Growing numbers of people are facing prosecution for aiding migrants, including French farmer Cédric Herrou, accused of helping migrants across the border from Italy to France, who faces five years in prison and a €30,000 fine if convicted. In Hungary, Ahmed H faces terrorism charges for travelling from Cyprus to Syria to help a group of relatives enter the EU.

All such acts of defiance against Europe’s racist border regimes should be supported. 

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 255 February/March 2017