A Europe of borders and resistance

Submitted by Matthew on 23 March, 2016 - 11:16 Author: Theodora Polenta

Here’s what the “Fortress EU” of ever increasing land, air and sea fences and more actual and conceptual borders says to us all, and not only to the refugees of Syria’s war: There is no place for you to live, because I want to grab your resources and check your routes. There is no other place for you to go to breathe. There is no way to walk. The only option to endure, to endure, to adapt, to live with the annihilation of any planning for a better future. And, to a large extent, those messages represent the broader social, economic, and cultural values of today’s capitalism.

If Europe greeted all the refugees from the Syrian war, that would be less than one per cent of the EU population. And the EU is the richest economic “pole” in the world, its total GDP exceeding the USA’s. But the European “partners” want to isolate the “problem” in Greece and Turkey. They want to buy the cooperation of Turkey with payouts, €3 and then €6 billion. The Turkish government asks also for a speeding-up of the process of integration of Turkey into the EU. The EU nods agreement, but makes no demand even for Turkey to create humane living conditions for refugees.

The EU’s decision to close the Greek-Macedonian border and seal the routes through the Balkans and the Mediterranean has, with the criminal consent of Alexis Tsipras and the other pro-Memorandum mainstream party leaders in Greece, achieved the “impossible”. In blatant contradiction with international law, it has transformed the refugee issue from a European and global one into a bilateral issue between Greece and Turkey. 26 organisations from Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia which have been helping refugees, have condemned the European governments for acting “in violation of the national, European and international law, closing their doors to people who are entitled to international protection.

The daily limits on the number of people being accepted are in accordance with the European Commission clearly incompatible with the Geneva Convention on Refugees. We are concerned that will result in collective expulsion, which violates the European Convention on Human Rights”. return Yet the EU’s new policy prescribes the return of all new “irregular migrants” who travel from Turkey to the Greek islands. All costs will be covered by the EU. Then, it says, for every Syrian returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian be resettled from Turkey in the EU. Greece has undertaken to set up in the Aegean islands, within a few days, a huge mechanism (some 4,000 employees) to record one by one the immigrants coming from Turkey and arrange for their transfer. The scheme for Turkey to send to Europe a Syrian from its own refugee camps for each Syrian received from Greece is contrary to the UN Convention on Refugees and of doubtful practicability, since it is limited to the arbitrary number of 72,000 refugees and relies on the European Commission and the EU member states.

Several countries, led by Hungary, have said that they will not cooperate with it. Greece’s Syriza-Anel government has already adopted the basic position of the Greece’s old conservative ruling party, the ND, that of creating detention centres and mass deportations for the “irregular migrants”. And the EU aid? Greece will get €368 million in three years, when this year alone it has spent on the refugee crisis €600 million according to the governor of the Bank of Greece, over €1 billion according to its deputy minister for migration policy.

Before the war, Syria, a country of 185,000 square kilometers, had 23 million inhabitants. Of those, 6.6 million are now refugees within the country, and 4.6 million outside Syria. 2.6 million are in Turkey and one million in Lebanon. These millions are the source of refugee flow to Europe. In the 1940s there was “no space” for the Jews. Now there is “no space” for the refugees. In the nationalist and racist imaginary, the culprit, the problem, is always the other, the different, the foreign. So a European Union with a population of over 500 million people “cannot accommodate” a few million refugees. NATO’s decision, at the request of Greece, Turkey and Germany, to “assist” with naval forces in the Aegean also means in a radical shift in the treatment of refugees. It is about establishing a marine “military fence”, with the same function and the same purpose as a land fence.

For as long as the war in Syria lasts and chaos prevails refugees will have no choice. They will try by every means possible to get to a place that is safer. However many summits the governments call, however many fences and borders they erect, however many NATO warships are deployed, whatever the weather conditions, no force will stop the movement of desperate people. This is the global history of migration and mass population movement.

The forces of xenophobia and neo-nazism are on the rise. More recently with 8% and 14 seats The neo-Nazi People’s Party in Slovakia won 8% of the vote and 14 seats. In Germany, the right-wing Eurosceptic AfD got a much increased vote in elections on 13 March. Hungary’s right-wing prime minister, Viktor Orban, rants: “We do not want to introduce crime, terrorism, homophobia and anti-Semitism into Hungary.” In “liberal” Denmark, the parliament has passed a law for the confiscation of all refugees’ valuables exceeding €1340.

On the other hand, we have had a rise of the left in the elections in Ireland and significant processes on the left in a number of countries of southern Europe and the UK and US. We also had anti-fascist demonstrations in many European countries and the huge wave of solidarity for refugees in Greece. The root of it all is the crisis of the capitalist system as a whole and internationally, which is reflected in the EU and its institutions.

Entire regions of the world are plummeting to barbarism. The problem is the system which leads inexorably to poverty and misery, and as Lenin described it, for poor people, a “nightmare without end.” We need another left, ready for a total break with the system. A left which will not regress to the dystopian nation-centred slogan of more borders and EU exit; a left that will raise the flag of the common struggle with workers in the rest of Europe, on the basis of internationalism, a socialist Europe and a socialist world . In juxtaposition with the prospect of continuing misery, there is of course the great solidarity movement — the movement that concretely and practically understands that no matter how many fences they raise, no matter how many detention camps they build, no matter how many borders and passages they will militarise and close, the passion for human life, freedom and dignity cannot be stopped.

Let us not forget: The vines were made long before the borders that were created to separate them. The land, water, wheat, rice, and the common life, pre-existed the fences, the small private properties, and the state borders. The united front and merging of the masses and flows of refugees and immigrants with the working class movement will relegate the “man-made” borders, of every kind and every scale, to the museum of history.