Evo to EU: Stop attacks on migrants

June 20, 2008

Below is an open letter from Bolivian President Evo Morales to the European Union, appealing to it not to adopt the racist anti-immigrant "Return Directive", which was voted up on June 18. This is abridged from http://boliviarising.blogspot.com.

Up until the end of the World War II, Europe was an emigrant continent. Tens of thousands of Europeans departed for the Americas to colonise and escape hunger, financial crisis, wars, totalitarianism and the persecution of ethnic minorities.

Today, I am following with concern the process of the so called "Return Directive". I feel that it is a drastic hardening of the detention and expulsion conditions for undocumented immigrants, regardless of the time they have lived in the European countries, their work situation, their family ties, or their ability and achievements to integrate.

European migration

Europeans arrived en masse to Latin and North America without visas or conditions imposed on them by the authorities. They were simply welcomed, and continue to be, in our American continent, which absorbed at that time the European economic misery and political crisis.

They came to our continent to exploit the natural wealth and to transfer it to Europe, with a high cost for the original populations in America. As is the case of our Cerro Rico de Potosi and its fabulous silver mines that gave monetary mass to the European continent from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

Today, the European Union is the main destiny for immigrants around the world. The great majority of immigrants go to the EU to contribute to its prosperity, not to take advantage of it. They are employed in public works, construction and in services to people in hospitals.

Our emigrants represent help in development that Europeans do not give us — since few countries really reach the minimum objective of 0.7% of its GDP in development assistance. Latin America received, in 2006, remittance (monies sent back) totalling US$68 billion — more than the total foreign investment in our countries.

On the worldwide level it reached $300 billion, which is more the than $104,000 million authorised for development assistance. My own country, Bolivia, received more than 10% of GDP in remittance.

Unfortunately, the "Return Directive" project is an enormous complication to this reality. We cannot accept that the fundamental rights of the people be denied to our compatriots and brother Latin Americans.

The "Return Directive" foresees the possibility of jailing undocumented immigrants for up to 18 months before their expulsion — or "distancing", according to the directive. Eighteen months! Without a judgment or justice!

Human rights

The directive text clearly violates numerous articles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 13 states: "All persons have a right to move freely and to choose their residence in the territory of a State." Plus, "All persons have the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their country".

Worst of all, the possibility exists for the mothers of families with young children to be arrested in these internment centres where we know that depression, hunger strikes and suicide happen. Where is the "freedom of movement", protection against arbitrary imprisonment?

The European Union is trying to convince the Andean Community Nations (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) to sign an "association agreement" of the same nature and content as the Free Trade Agreements imposed by the United States.

We are under intense pressure from the European Commission to accept conditions of great liberalisation of our trade, financial services, intellectual property rights and our public works.

In addition, under so called "judicial protection", Bolivia is being pressured over the nationalisation of water, gas and telecommunications carried out on May 1, International Workers' Day.

Where is the "judicial protection" for our women, adolescents, children and workers that look for better horizons in Europe?

If the "Return Directive" is passed, we will be ethically unable to deepen negotiations with the EU, and we reserve the right to legislate such that the European citizens have the same obligations for visas that they have imposed on Bolivians since April 2007, according to the diplomatic principal of reciprocity.

We have not exercised it up until now, precisely because we were awaiting good signs from the EU.

The world is threatened by global warming, contamination, the slow but sure disappearance of the energy resources and biodiversity while hunger and poverty increase, debilitating societies.


To make migrants, with documents or not, the scapegoats is not the solution. It does not meet any reality. The social cohesion problems that Europe is suffering from are not the fault of migrants, but the development model imposed by the North, which destroys the planet and dismembers human societies.

I appeal to the conscience of the European leaders not to approve the "Return Directive". It is a directive of vengeance.

I also call on the EU to elaborate a migration policy that is respectful of human rights, which allows us to maintain dynamics helpful to both continents and that repairs once and for all the tremendous historic debt, both economic and ecological, that Europe owes to a large part of the Third World — and to close once and for all the open veins of Latin America.

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