“One comes to this country to seek asylum, not to be imprisoned like a criminal and for them to take your son. In all this time we’ve only spoken three times and the last time he told me that he is sad and asked ‘When are we going to be together?’ and that broke my heart. We want justice and that they reunite us with our children soon. We are human beings and there are many mothers suffering.” – Letter from Claudia, a woman imprisoned in the Hutto detention center in Texas to the organization Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas, June 28, 2018
The U.S. government has admitted to deporting 463 parents without their children. Claudia could have been one of them, or she might have been one of the over 2500 parents fortunate to be reunited with their child whom was ripped away from them at the U.S. border, only after a court ordered the Trump Administration to do so. Whichever the case may be, Claudia and her son have faced criminalization, detention, abuse and torture at the hands of the U.S. government, and they are not alone.
From Texas to Greece: No Where Safe for Refugees
Since May 5, 2018 at least 2,551 children over the age of five, and 103 under the age of five were taken from their parents as they crossed the U.S. border together to seek asylum as refugees. As devastating photos of children in cages and recordings of their cries within immigration detention centers were released, the U.S. government was once again exposed for their inhuman and criminally callous treatment of migrants.
The Trump administration was ordered by a Federal judge to reunite all families by July 26, 2018. However, the U.S. government admits that as of the end of July, over 550 children remain in detention, including 46 children under the age of five. Although they try to justify their failure to reunite families by claiming that they are unable to locate the families (hundreds of whom they have deported!), or by citing concern for the safety of the children – these families would have never been in this devastating situation if the U.S. government hadn’t separated them in the first place.
Thousands of miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border, refugee mothers in Greece are facing the same inhumanity as they try to survive in squalid and dangerous refugee camps.
Roula, a mother from Syria told a Human Rights Watch researcher, “There is no peace, no safety, no dignity in Moria [one of the refugee camps on the island of Lesbos]. It’s worse than jail…We are not treated as belonging to society, as human beings.”
8,000 men, women and children are living in the Moria refugee camp, where "Conditions are so bad that people's medical and mental health is being heavily compromised,” as reported by Doctors Without Borders.
The brutal treatment of migrant mothers in Texas and Greece are not isolated incidents, their experiences are only examples for millions of refugee and immigrant mothers. For the over 68.5 million people around the world who have been forcibly displaced from their homes by war, violence and economic devastation imposed on them by imperialist governments like the United States, Canada and the European Union, this inhumanity is their reality.
Migration Policy Steeped in Inhumanity
A recent announcement by the European Union is an important example of this callous disregard for human life. In 2015 over 1 million refugees reached the shores of Europe, looking for somewhere safe to build a life. Since then, each year the number of arrivals into Europe has been decreasing while at the same time the Mediterranean crossing is becoming deadlier. This year, at least 1 out of every 34 people that has fled to Europe through the sea has died.
In June 2018, the E.U. proved once again that they are not interested in a migration policy that puts human rights and lives first when a new European Union agreement was reached following a summit held in Brussels. Part of this flimsy policy, which does not require E.U. countries to commit to anything, including measures regarding the safety and security of migrants in Europe, calls for the creation of “regional disembarkation platforms,” – more commonly called offshore processing centres.
These offshore processing centres are proposed to be established in North Africa, in Libya, for example, a country that was obliterated by a NATO bombing campaign in 2011 and remains shattered to this day. Libya is a country rife with human trafficking and slave trade, where migrants already face imprisonment and brutality on their journey to Europe. So, just how is that a safe and humane place to process asylum seekers?
In fact, Australia has already implemented such a disastrous and criminal policy with offshore detention centres. As an article in the Guardian from November 2017 began, “The most dangerous mistruth in current Australian politics is that in order for lives to be saved at sea, other people – accused of no crime – must be indefinitely and arbitrarily punished offshore.” Now, European leaders are proposing implementing the same criminal policy, only in a different hemisphere, in “democratic” Europe.
Is Canada Better?
In Canada it doesn’t take too much digging to discover that immigration and refugee policy here is also steeped in inhumanity.
Take, for example, the increasing numbers of refugees crossing the border into Canada from the United States due to the Trump administrations escalating attacks on refugees and immigrants. According to Canadian law, every person seeking asylum has the same rights, regardless of how they may have entered Canada. However, politicians and major media in Canada have taken to referring to people crossing the border as “illegal,” “queue-jumping asylum seekers,” “irregular border-crossers” and even “iffy immigrants with sketchy backgrounds.” They are escalating the rhetoric instead of offering solutions to protect refugees, which is an international obligation for Canada.
There is plenty that the government of Canada can and must do in response to increasing number of asylum seekers crossing the border. As Claire Roque, President of the Canadian Council for Refugees, explained, “It is absurd to suggest that Canada is unable to cope with the modest numbers of people making refugee claims here. Canada is receiving far fewer refugees than many other countries, including much poorer countries.”
They could start by immediately increasing the amount of resources, staffing and funding available to the agencies and organizations that facilitate the asylum process. Then they must also cancel the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States. This treaty is what is forcing refugees to make often dangerous and precarious border crossings, as they face the peril of being returned to the U.S. if they claim asylum at an established border crossing.
Aren’t the White Helmets an Example of Canada’s Benevolence?
In July, the government of Canada announced that they were going to re-settle 250 Syrians, all members of the White Helmets and their families. However, once again, this open arms approach to a group of Syrian refugees is far from altruistic.
Although they claim to be a civil defense organization, the White Helmets have been exposed, often through their own social media accounts, as working closely with, and even participating in, terrorist organizations in Syria such as Daesh (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra (a split from al-Qaeda).
Thus, the “White Helmets” can hardly be considered refugees. No indeed, they are terrorist mercenaries paid by the U.S. and their allies (they received $4.5 million from the government of Canada in 2016 alone) as part of the proxy war against democratically elected Syrian government that has displaced over 11 million people and killed at least 400,000 people.
So, what business does the government of Canada have in re-settling the White Helmets when there are millions of Syrian refugees looking for somewhere safe to be? The government of Canada is merely returning a favour for the work that the White Helmets carried out in Syria on the orders of the imperialists. As President Bashar Assad continues to gain ground against the terrorist forces and their imperialist allies in Syria, the White Helmets had to be evacuated, and the government of Canada was right there to help.
What Shapes Immigration and Refugee Policy?
It is a big lie and manipulation to claim that the economies of the U.S., Canada, the E.U. and many other Western countries do not need immigrants, and that the “border must be sealed.” Immigrants and refugees, whether documented or not, contribute to the productive forces in a country, build the economy, and have also families that consume and keep the capitalist economy running.
In 2012, the Globe and Mail in Canada, published an article “Why Canada Needs a Flood of Immigrants.” This article, written by a demographer, explains “When immigrants arrive, they not only fill gaps in the work force but pay taxes and spend money on housing, transport and consumer goods. Productive capacity increases and there is a ripple effect across the economy. And studies show that their offspring tend to be among the country's best-educated and initiative-taking young people.”
The article goes on to further explore another important reason that immigration is necessary, “Today, there are 4.2 working-aged Canadians for every senior citizen, making contributions to cover retirees' pensions and health care. By 2031, that ratio will be cut in half. The tax base will shrink, growth will slow and labour shortages will become even more dire.”
However, although Western countries are in urgent need of immigrants, these same governments also need to be able to tightly control the immigrants that they do receive. For example, the government of Canada has raised the language and education requirements for immigration, while at the same time making it increasingly difficult for Temporary Foreign Workers to apply for permanent residency and decreasing the number of refugees resettled in the country.
If the government of Canada cared at all about millions of refugees around the world, they would immediately accept 200,000 refugees, and instantly grant them full human and legal rights. Instead, they have made it crystal clear – they want the world’s wealthy and highly educated to come to Canada permanently, and the poorest and most vulnerable people to come here to be super-exploited for only a short time. Thus, it is not humanity that governs the government of Canada’s policies, it is the demands of the capitalist-imperialist economy.
Immigration Policy as a Form of Intimidation and Terror
Another important dimension to immigrant and refugee policy in the U.S., Canada and the E.U. is its ability to terrify and divide poor and working people. “Zero-tolerance” policies, mass deportations and other forms of repression against immigrants and refugees are a way in which governments like the United States can control and exploit immigrants. They use intimidation and terror to bring immigrants “in-line” with what the capitalist system demands. If immigrants and refugees are criminalized and traumatized when entering the U.S., they will be far less likely to fight for their rights; such as for a living and dignified wage, housing or healthcare.
Xenophobic and Islamophobic immigration policies also allow these governments to divide poor and working people. This division enables them to unleash austerity at home and wars and occupations abroad that the capitalist economy requires to stave off impending crisis.
Immigrants and Refugees Are Welcomed; Stand Up! Fight Back!
However, as the recent example of the separation of families at the U.S. border has shown, with every renewed attack against immigrants and refugees, there is the possibility of resistance. Organizing in the U.S. continues to push back the Trump administrations criminal immigration policies. In imperialist countries around the world, we must do the same to organize against racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia, and to demand that the borders must be opened unconditionally and immediately.
Migrants and refugees are fleeing countries that have been destroyed by imperialist war, occupations and theft of resources. All migrants deserve a chance to build a life within the countries that are responsible for the destruction of their homeland. To give them that opportunity, the borders must be opened immediately. No more to detentions, criminalization and dangerous crossings over land and sea.
Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette
Back to Article Listing