We have heard about the horror of the drowning of people in the Mediterranean. But this is not something new that has happened in the last week, in the last year or few years. For well over a decade hundreds, if not thousands of migrants are estimated to have drowned every year trying to make it to Europe. People in Africa have been displaced because of war, famine, de-forestation, climate change and other things stemming largely from capitalism. Mainly they moved into neighbouring countries but some made it into countries like Morocco. The old route to Europe was through the narrow straights of Gibralta dividing Spain from Morocco. But increased border controls have meant that people have had to make increasingly more dangerous trips routes to make it across. Nowadays people are travelling from Libya to Italy or Greece which is very perilous indeed.
The Illegality of crossing borders puts migrants in danger and the increasing enforcement of borders increases the danger of death on a large scale. This does not just apply to the Mediterranean. It applies to people crossing the Aegean Sea, the Rio Grande and the deserts between Mexico and the United States, and the English Channel where people are killed hanging on to lorries each year and there was the horror of the Dover 58 frozen to death in a refrigeratted truck.
It is revealing to compare the approach of the British Government with that of the British National Party. Back in 2009 Nick Griffin said “Frankly they should sink several of the boats.” In 2014 the Government said “We do not support planned search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. We believe that they create an unitended pull factor encouraging migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing thereby lead to more tragic an unecessary deaths”. For both, discouraging and detering migration is more important than saving lives.
The number of people trying to cross the Mediterranean has increased significantly over the last three years because of the civil wars in Libya and Syria and now we hear about the latest disasters. But the responsibility lies with the European Governments who are determined to maintain borders and whose interventions in the region has made the imperative to migrate ever greater.
The conclusions of the EU summit are appalling – waging a war on the traffickers and smugglers, blowing up their boats etc. We should not hold any candles for the smugglers, exploiting migrants then sending them to their deaths. But they are the products of immigration controls, they are the bit players in a terrible drama orchestrated by the European governments themselves. Destroying the boats is an attack on the migrants themselves.
There is only one humane answer to this crisis and that is to open the borders and facilitate the safe passage of people across the Mediterranean and other dangerous barriers across the world. People will say that this will put a great strain on the resources the European countries. It may very well increase a strain on resources. Humanitarian crisies usually do. But the alternatives are continuing deaths and people moving to other African countries with far less resources than Europe. And this is no natural disaster but one created by immigration controls, by imperialist plunder, capitalist driven climate change, policies of divide and rule an so on.
We don’t want borders! We don’t want immigration controls! No One is Illegal!