Shipwreck of migrants in the Mediterranean: capitalism kills to defend its borders

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Once again, there was a shipwreck in the Mediterranean off the Italian island of Lampedusa on 22 June, with hundreds of people missing. This tragedy occurred just eight days after a boat sank off the coast of Greece. But what is presented as a simple news item is in reality an expression of the chaos caused by crisis-ridden capitalism.

The death of dozens of people in shipwrecks is becoming a recurring event. Most of these makeshift journeys start in North Africa, but many migrants today come from sub-Saharan Africa. The main countries of origin of the victims of this shipwreck were the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. The main reason for their departure is the worsening living conditions in their region of origin and the hope of a better future. Indeed, the bloody conflicts that are causing chaos in these countries are making the simple fact of living in these regions an ordeal. The same situation exists as a result of the civil wars in Sudan, Libya and Mali.

The multitude of armed conflicts that have been going on for decades, the instability of many states and governments, the growing influence of terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State, of various warlords, all have dramatic consequences for the population, forcing them to flee. And with climate change causing widespread environmental damage, there are even more factors that will push the inhabitants of these countries to flee this chaos, in particular the lack of water and the impact of droughts on agriculture.

The conflicts that have taken place in these countries are largely the result of the imperialist ambitions of the major powers, each seeking to defend its own sordid interests, while fueling widespread chaos and an increasingly uncontrollable situation on the continent.

The unbridled exploitation of natural resources by European, American, Russian and Chinese companies, the commercial and strategic ambitions of these same powers ready to do anything to maintain their influence and lay their hands on ports, construction sites and markets... all this is having disastrous consequences for the population. Consequences that the local bourgeoisie, corrupt to the core, couldn't care less about as long as they can continue to gorge themselves by staying in power at any cost.

The great powers are therefore experiencing, through uncontrollable waves of migration, the backlash of their own policies and interventions. As capitalism's room for manoeuvre in its quest for profit becomes ever smaller, the bourgeoisies of every country cannot be encumbered by "good feelings" and so have no choice but to get rid of what they perceive as a "problem" in an inhumane manner. The central countries have thus transformed themselves into veritable administrative and military fortresses: walls, barbed wire, concentration camps, police violence... This is illustrated by the recent operation in Mayotte in France, where for years the local authorities have encouraged hatred against Comorian migrants. But the main central countries cannot do all the dirty work themselves, so they also subcontract the task to other countries, such as Turkey.

Libya has become a tragic illustration of this reality. Following the intervention of the coalition of France, Great Britain and the United States against Gaddafi's regime, Libya has become a lawless zone, where the underworld, petty warlords and unspeakable barbarity reign. As a result, the country has become a gateway for many would-be immigrants to Europe. It is an exemplary and unscrupulous border guard for the European Union. The current recent civil wars in Libya have demonstrated the brutality of its rulers, which includes the widespread use of human trafficking. The testimony of one of the members of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, despite the fact that this initiative emanates from a den of thieves, is edifying in this respect: "The support provided by the EU to the Libyan coastguard in terms of push-backs and interceptions leads to violations of certain human rights. We cannot push people back to areas that are not safe, and clearly Libyan waters are not safe for migrants to embark"[1]. This situation has been going on for several years and shows the emptiness of the EU’s so-called progressive and humanist rhetoric.

Europe is far from being the only continent to show hypocrisy about its supposed humanism. The United States, defender of "democracy" and "civil liberties", is another striking example. Despite the hypocritical media campaign surrounding Donald Trump's "wall", there was in fact already a fence in certain parts of the Mexican border built by George Bush and Bill Clinton to regulate the number of illegal migrants. Before 2019, this barrier covered a large part of California and Arizona.

But we shouldn't fall into the trap of defending migrants' "rights". Refugee aid associations and the left wing of capital are perpetuating the illusion that the state can be reformed to take better account of their situation. It is for this reason that the media sometimes highlight organisations such as Amnesty International: these political groups exploit the legitimate indignation of a section of the population to draw them into sterile, piecemeal struggles. The five-year term of the "socialist" François Hollande demonstrated the real face of the “solidarity” that the state shows towards Roma or Africans.

Contrary to what these so-called humanists claim, it is futile to demand that the bourgeois state respect refugees. This is a mystification for the proletariat. For all states, the labour power of the working class is nothing but a commodity. And the well-being of the world's population is, in their minds, nothing but a lie, a mere veneer to ensure exploitation. The refugees are victims of the final phase of capitalism and the only way to stop this disaster is for proletarians to fight alongside their class brothers and sisters, whatever their origins.

Edgar, 2 July 2023


[1] "In Libya, the ordeal of migrants and refugees", Deutsche Welle (4 April 2023).



Refugee crisis