Europe outsources its dirty work to Frontex and ‘third party’ countries

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At the end of July, refugees looking like skeletons, men, women and children dying of thirst, were picked up at the Libyan border by coastguards. A little further on, in the Saharan desert, several corpses were found, including a mother and her little girl. Unbearable images! The father, who was already waiting for them on the spot, devastated by the news of their deaths, expressed his sorrow that he wanted "a future for his daughter". A terrible event among thousands of others, in a capitalist world with no prospects.

Accelerating decomposition leads to an explosion in the number of migrants

A few weeks earlier, on 14 July, the nth makeshift boat from Libya with 750 people on board sank after a failed pushback by the Greek coastguard [1]. In the face of these horrors, the media coverage was scant. In contrast, just eight days later, the disappearance of 5 VIP tourists on a trip to visit the wreck of the Titanic attracted intense media coverage. This contrast says a lot about the policies of governments, which take advantage of a dramatic news item to make people forget the corpses of drowned migrants in the Mediterranean.

The worsening global situation is leading to increasingly long, complex and dangerous migrations. Today, there are a record 110 million refugees in the world, as well as an increasing number of victims, particularly in the Mediterranean, where the situation is one of the worst in the world, with more than 2,000 victims since the beginning of 2023. And the more migrants there are, the less access they have to Western countries. This is an inhuman policy that is getting much tougher, effectively banning any right to exile.

In the face of increasing barbarity, instability and chaos around the world, governments are no longer content simply to present themselves as impregnable fortresses, surrounded by miles of barbed wire and high walls. They have equipped themselves with surveillance technologies and spying tools designed to block access to borders. The worst victims are probably migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and the Horn of Africa. Already victims of capitalist logic with its wars, armed criminal gangs, insecurity, climate change producing drought and famine, these populations are forced to flee as a last resort.  

The criminal policies of the great democratic powers

While bankrupt capitalism tends to drag humanity down into rubble and absolute poverty, the destructive effects of the crisis, which have had a greater impact on peripheral countries for decades, are now having a greater impact on Western countries, which are drastically refusing the slightest "useless mouth". Only refugees from the Ukraine, for the purposes of war propaganda, or the richest and most highly educated, who are likely to bolster a few sectors "under pressure", working under arduous conditions and for pitiful wages, can hope, after ubiquitous administrative hassles, for a hypothetical asylum in exchange for relentless exploitation. But for the majority of the "starving", the EU has become an inaccessible and even deadly destination.

At the same time, the democratic countries have stepped up their legal arsenal, with unprecedented brutality, to act as a deterrent [2], further criminalising migrants and the NGOs that come to the aid of the shipwrecked. [3]

And to delegate the dirty work and avoid getting their hands too dirty, the EU member states have, above all, added to their arsenal by extending their own borders, giving ‘third party’ countries on the shores of the Mediterranean a mandate to detain migrants, delegating the maintenance of law and order to remote camps outside European territory and away from the cameras. In return for a fee, the camps are managed "offshore", where abuse, human trafficking and torture are legion, and where living conditions are often akin to the most squalid prison environment. This is a policy that has been fully endorsed by the EU, in particular through the funding of the Frontex Agency, enabling the coastguards of these third party countries to carry out "pushbacks", even though these practices are "illegal" under Western law.

True to the EU's unacknowledged instructions, the Tunisian authorities, for example, as the tragedies in the Sahara have shown, have not hesitated to deliberately abandon refugees in the desert without food or water so that they can die. A monstrous policy which, in addition to the blackmail practised by third party countries for the occasion, uses migrants as a mere bargaining chip. The EU's de facto complicity with these states and their heavy-handed methods is aimed at preventing asylum applications: either by keeping would-be exiles out of the loop by blocking the borders or condemning them to death in the Mediterranean (or the desert) if they resign themselves to leaving in the end. And that's exactly what's happening!

The bourgeois states, under their democratic cloak, are veritable murderers! Even the most basic right to asylum is flouted, even for children who have been persecuted or are in distress, even for people who have been mistreated or mutilated. It's enough to make you sick. Especially when, following EU orders, migrants are parked in camps against their will by guards from the Turkish, Libyan or Egyptian states, and so on.

The roundabout, cynical way in which the shipwrecked are left to die, and the increasing number of shipwrecks and corpses, testify not only to the hypocrisy and cynicism of the EU, but also and above all to its criminal practices and its desire to liquidate "undesirables" in cold blood.

Xenophobia and division: two weapons of the bourgeoisie

The bourgeoisie's despicable, horrific and repulsive practices are not confined to driving away or eliminating those it does not accept on its soil. It cultivates fears, exploiting the worst xenophobic reflexes within the population, pitting workers against each other, pitting local populations against migrants, presented as dangerous competitors who have come to "take their place" and "worsen their living conditions". This is already beginning in the countries used as outsourcing resources: "By designating sub-Saharan migration asa criminal plan to change the composition of the demographic landscape in Tunisia’, the Tunisian Head of State has made every sub-Saharan migrant a presumed accomplice in this alleged plot" [4]. Such policies encourage aggression, persecution and other forms of violence against migrants, as has happened on numerous occasions in the Tunisian port city of Sfax, which has rapidly become a veritable Calvary for exiles.

And for those migrants who miraculously arrive in Western countries, the suffering continues in the form of exclusion, racist prejudice conveyed by extreme right-wing theories, exploited by the state in a despicable manner on the one hand, but also and above all by leftist "anti-racist" propaganda of the "defence of rights", slyly opposing workers and immigrants, seeking to rot people's consciences to the detriment of a genuine common workers' struggle. The working class must absolutely reject all democratic prejudices, just as it must firmly reject "the traps set by the bourgeoisie around single-issue struggles (to save the environment, against racial oppression, feminism, etc) which divert it from its own class terrain" [5].

The only real support that workers can give to persecuted migrants is to fight against the degradation of their living conditions and the growing barbarity of this system, in the longer term affirming the only viable historical project: overthrowing and destroying capitalism to replace it with a society without exploitation.

WH (1 September, 2023)

[1] See the article : Shipwreck of migrants in the Mediterranean: capitalism kills to defend its borders  ICConline 27 July, 2023.

[2] In the UK, for example, which is no longer a member of Frontex, the Illegal Immigration Bill prohibits illegal immigrants from applying for asylum or any other protection under their fundamental rights, regardless of the seriousness of the situation in which they find themselves. In addition, this law provides for their deportation to another country (such as Rwanda), with no guarantee that they will be able to obtain the protection they need (UNHCR sources).

[3] Italy, Greece and Malta have launched administrative and criminal investigations against NGOs that save lives. Italy has already detained and imposed financial penalties

[4]  See the article on the website “le” of 29 June : ‘Tunisie : dans la ville portuaire de Sfax, l’espoir blessé des migrants subsahariens’

[5] Resolution on the International Situation, 25th ICC Congress, International Review 170.