On Wednesday 24 November 2021, 27 refugees downed in the Channel near Calais. This revolting tragedy is unfortunately nothing new: since the beginning of the 2000s, more than 700 people have drowned in the Channel
All over the world, populations are fleeing poverty, war, gang violence, climate disasters. Entire regions of the globe are becoming a nightmare to live in. These mass migrations reached unprecedented levels in 2015 and are again on the increase in the wake of the Covid pandemic and its disastrous economic and social consequences. And this in spite of the border walls and the ferocious repression which migrants are faced with, like the refugees who have been massing on the Polish frontier for weeks.
After the le Touquet agreement in February 2004 between Britain and France, coercive measures have become more and more brutal and systematic. Let’s just recall the savagery of the French police when they dismantled the Calais “Jungle” on 25 October 2016. Everywhere, the only means for bourgeois states to deal with the “migrant question” comes down to police violence and an Orwellian surveillance which forces refugees to take more and more risks, in this case by trying to cross the channel in rubber dinghies. To the indecent political joust between Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron after the tragedy in the Channel, we can add cynical declarations like those of the French minister Darmanin who straight away justified the EU policy of militarising coasts and frontiers, while putting the blame on the people smugglers: “those who are the most to blame for this ignoble situation are above all the people smugglers”. We had similar words from Johnson who talked about the gangs “literally getting away with murder”.
Yes, the people smugglers are conscienceless exploiters of human misery, but the politicians of the great democracies are no less criminal. It is them and their shameful policies which are behind the emergence and flourishing of the people-smugglers, the result of the fact that the increasingly criminalised migrants are finding it harder and harder to go from one country to the next. The bourgeoisie is looking for a scapegoat to cover up its own inhuman policies. The gangs are used to obscure the real criminal: capitalism. Just as the media point their fingers at Lukashenko, as though he is the only one instrumentalising refugees, here it’s the gangs that provide the alibi.
What none of the politicians can say is that their policies are dictated by the defence of private property and the national capital. Among all those forced to become refugees, only those who are suitably qualified and whose labour power can be used profitably, are acceptable to capital. All the rest must be pushed back by physical or administrative barriers, and more and more by armed force. The implacable law of capital is that you “open the borders” only when it suits the needs of exploitation and profit. In this cause, bodies on the beaches are just a minor price to pay.