Europe closes its doors to migrants

July 14, 2017

An informal summit of interior ministers from all European Union member states was held on July 7 in Tallinn, Estonia. The first issue on the agenda was migrants.

Italy requested that other member states provide help in dealing with the situation along the lines of the 2015 agreement to redistribute migrants throughout the EU.

The Italian proposal also sought to “regionalise” the rescue of migrants, which in practice would mean opening all ports on the southern European coast to boats that rescue migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.

Without this help, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said, Italy would be forced to close its ports, as it could no longer carry the entire burden by itself.

Italy however received a negative response and is unlikely to obtain cooperation from other member states. French President Emmanuel Macron said he was sympathetic to Italy’s plight, but that France could not take further charge of the situation because its ports are already under too much pressure.

Macron added that so-called economic migrants should not be equated with political refugees.

But labels used by European bureaucrats such as “economic migrants” have no connection to the real lives of migrants and refugees. Those who are forced to leave their homes due to war or poverty do not concern themselves with deciding first whether they are political refugees or economic migrants.

Spain also rejected any possibility of “regionalisation” and endorsed France’s position, as did the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany; the latter arguing that in the current context, opening up Europe’s ports would mean a rise in the number of landings, something they want to avoid.

But, the facts suggest that, compared to last year, the number of migrants arriving in Europe has decreased and that there is no real emergency. The positions adopted by European leaders suggest that they are primarily motivated by electoral and economic concerns.

The issue of migrants is one of the thorniest one’s in current political debate and is likely to be decisive in any upcoming general elections in Europe.

In Italy, for example, the right-wing parties, the populist 5 Star Movement and neo-fascist organisations are all constantly gaining ground thanks to their firm opposition to EU migration policies and the presence of migrants and refugees in Italy.

Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi, in an attempt to not lose votes over this issue, has claimed that Italy cannot welcome everyone and that he would like to restrict immigration by setting a quota on the number of migrants Italy will accept.

Renzi also said that the best thing Italy could do was to help potential migrants in their countries of origin, rather than continuing to bear the burden of receiving them. Instead of oppose the slogans of the right, Renzi has simply imitated them.

Austria is no better. Chancellor Christian Kern has raised the possibility of militarising the country’s border with Italy to prevent migrants from entering Austria. This is despite an almost non-existent migrant flow across this border.

Kern’s statement was nothing more than cheap propaganda in a context where there will be elections in Austria in October.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has proposed an investment plan to boost the economy of Africa and combat the root causes of immigration.

While appearing to be a positive proposal, the plan is actually more about extending Europe’s control over African economies.

The funds allocated by the “Merkel Plan” will pave the way for new privatizations, with transnational companies benefiting.

In other words, the “Merkel Plan” is a fully-fledged form of neo-colonialism, which will be of no use for local people but will serve the interests of rich Western capitalists. Needless to say, Macron agrees with the plan, as it will allow France to reinforce its control over mineral resources in central Africa.

For centuries, Africa has been pillaged by European colonisers. The criminal exploitation of African resources by European corporations continues today.

Consider the arms trade: European governments have financially supported corrupt regimes in Africa and sold them arms to fight wars that could have been avoided if Europe withdrew their financial support.

Then there are the environmental disasters created by oil drilling, while profits from the industry end up in the hands of European companies.

This revival of European colonialism must be condemned. It is unacceptable that Western institutions continue to exploit Africa, generating poverty, wars and corruption and depriving people of their dignity and human rights.

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