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      Immigration Crisis; Capitalist Crisis

      By Alison Bodine

      The sentence passed by quickly at the bottom of the screen, a headline from the New York Times

      “60 Million People Fleeing Chaotic Lands, U.N. Says” and it was gone, followed by other news. This staggering number of refugees is the equivalent to the entire estimated population of Italy. Yet, it is still only a portion of the world’s displaced people, only those refugees fleeing their countries due to war and persecution, not due to poverty. The movement of 60 million people is nearly impossible to imagine. It is even more difficult if you imagine the ways that these refugees are forced to flee their homelands. They move by sea in overcrowded and dangerous boats and rafts, through deserts in the back of semi-trucks, their fate determined by smugglers and criminals, or by a sudden rainstorm.

      Refugee Crisis - a Crisis for Humanity In April of 2015 over 800 people died when a single ship carrying refugees from Libya to Italy sank in the Mediterranean. This horrific incident created a mass outcry that finally brought international media attention to the devastating pace that people were drowning in the sea en route to find a better life in Europe. In only the first four months of 2015, over 1,850 people had died in what became known as “the sea of death.”

      What was the cause of this increase in the loss of human life? As was written in “The Human Crisis Made By Imperialist Powers” (Fire This Time, Volume 9, Issue 5), “There are a few reasons for this increasing death rate, including the criminal policies of E.U. [European Union] governments towards people fleeing persecution, poverty and death. This includes cuts to rescue operations, following the backwards thinking of British Tory Minister Baroness Anelay, who claimed last year that rescue operations were actually encouraging more refugees to cross the Mediterranean. This is a ridiculous claim, given not only the rate of refugees so far this year, but also the estimation of the UN International Maritime Organization that nearly 500,000 refugees will make the perilous journey this year.”

      Following international condemnation, E.U. governments scrambled for a solution to the crisis at hand. Quickly they decided on a short-term strategy, in what was described by Amnesty International as a “face-saving, not a life-saving operation.” The E.U. strategy largely only included an increase in funding for “Operation Triton,” a boat rescue operation run through the E.U.’s border security agency Frontex, which is only mandated to operate within 50 miles of the European shoreline. Their plan didn’t even offer a solution for the 40,000 refugees already accepted for asylum in Europe.

      It is now three months after the tragic death of those 800 refugees and it is even more clear that the E.U. was not interested in saving human lives, only in calming the outcry. Not only have people continued to lose their lives in the dangerous Mediterranean crossing, but the crisis has further overflowed, in much the same way as cracks spread in a breaking vase continuously filled with water. According to the UNHCR (the United Nations Refugees Agency), from January to June 2015, 137,000 refugees crossed the Mediterranean to Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain. This is 83% more than in 2014, evidence that the Middle East and Africa are further plagued by imperialist intervention, wars and occupations.

      Most of the people that make it safely to the shores of Europe, only do so after being rescued at sea by fishing boats or government and merchant ships. Unfortunately, once their feet touch dry land, their crisis continues. The struggle for refugees begins over again, this time on European soil, as they are forced into unsafe and unsanitary detention centres to be processed as asylum seekers and refugees. Camps in Southern Italy and Greece are especially overcrowded, and refugees are once again forced to live in inhuman conditions often similar to those they have fled, as they wait for European officials to decide their fate.

      In the Amnesty International statement “Greece: Humanitarian crisis mounts as refugee support system pushed to breaking point” they state, “Tens of thousands of vulnerable people making the perilous sea journeys to escape war or poverty arrive on these islands only to be met by a support system on its knees. The majority of new arrivals have limited or no access to medical or humanitarian support and are often forced to stay in squalid conditions in overcrowded detention centres or open camps.”

      The statement continues “An Afghan refugee held with his wife and two small children on Lesvos told Amnesty International: ‘My children slept with wet clothes...nobody came to check us. The situation is bad here, my children are ill, we are ill....We need a doctor and clothes.’”

      The humanitarian crisis continues beyond the Mediterranean sea. Take, for example, a camp located outside of Vienna, Austria. The Wall Street Journal reported that this camp is housing twice as many people as it has space for, and more than 2,000 people are sleeping outside.

      If the refugees are finally accepted as asylum seekers, they are left to fend for themselves on the streets of some of Europe’s most impoverished countries. Once unable to find jobs or means of life in countries like Greece, many refugees are forced to travel illegally to other parts of Europe, as current laws govern that they are only granted asylum in the country where they first landed in Europe.

      The Human Crisis Spreads Throughout Europe It is at this step in the perilous journey for refugees that we encounter the latest flashpoint making international headlines. In the first seven months of 2015, 37, 000 people have been stopped attempting to cross through the Channel Tunnel that connects France to England. Eurotunnel, the private company that runs the tunnel, also revealed that in the month of July, nine people had died trying to make the crossing. In the week following the announcement, videos showing recently deployed and armed riot police fighting against refugees have appeared all over social media. It is these videos that have displayed clearly for the world the callousness of European governments towards desperate people that have been forced by imperialism to flee their homelands.

      In response to this human crisis, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, has likened refugees to swarming insects and called for the violent tightening of the border between France and England. On July 29, 2015 he arrogantly responded to questions about the Channel Tunnel crossings with, “This is very testing, I accept that, because you have got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain because Britain has got jobs, it’s got a growing economy, it’s an incredible place to live....But we need to protect our borders by working hand in glove with our neighbours the French and that is exactly what we are doing.”

      There are currently about 10,000 refugees living in Calais, France, an area located near the Channel Tunnel crossing. The camps in Calais, located on the site of a former chemical dumping ground, are also known as “The Jungle.” Graffiti on a wall in Calais reads in Arabic “Calais is the hell of immigrants.” For people that have travelled the 2,500km from Southern Italy to Calais, escaping hell the entire way, it is no wonder that they would be willing to once again risk their lives to make the final journey on to the UK.

      Capitalism and Imperialism are the roots of the Refugee Crisis? Now that the stories of refugees are once again making international headlines, and in the case of those crossing from France to England, disturbing the ability for trade and travel between two prominent European countries, European leaders are once again scratching their heads about how to respond. What are the solutions that the European governments are offering? We only have to look at the last three months of their failed immigration policies to see what kind of “progress” has been made in providing a human solution to refugees. European governments have nothing to offer but more and higher fences and check points, nothing but increased humiliation and death for refugees.

      So what is it that European governments and big media are leaving out when they discuss the refugees in Europe today? We only have to scroll through a few mainstream Western media articles about refugees in Europe to realize that they pretty much all have the same content. They all talk about the grave crisis facing Europe, and they even go as far as to discuss the reasons why an unprecedented number of refugees are making the dangerous journey. But they stop before even asking the most fundamental question - why have the homelands of these refugees, largely from the Middle East and Africa, been plagued with endless wars, occupations and devastation? Until this question is answered there is no solution to the refugee crisis, a crisis for humanity that is only expected to grow in the coming years.

      The importance of this question, and the gross hypocrisy of European governments, is clearly seen by taking a closer look at the countries from where these refugees are fleeing. According to a UNHCR report, the majority of the refugees arriving in Italy and Greece from the Mediterranean Sea are from Syria. The second-most common country of origin is Afghanistan. Over the last 14 years, both of these countries have been completely destroyed through foreign intervention, war and occupation.

      Syria is a country devastated by over four years of a brutal civil war fomented by the U.S. and their imperialist allies, including France and the U.K. More than four million people have been forced to flee Syria. As these war refugees run desperately to neighbouring countries, they are finding life to be nearly as difficult as in Syria. This means they must continue, moving through Turkey beyond into Europe. The story of Sami, a Syrian refugee, is common. In an interview with the Irish Times, he explains “Every day, every hour, people were dying. Two of our daughters’ friends were killed. Our youngest, who is 12, would not talk for a week. Their school work suffered. They were crying so much that they would not open their copy books for weeks... The economy has collapsed. I tried to find work in Lebanon, where I registered as a refugee. But there is no work there either and accommodation is so expensive.” Now, the U.S. and their allies are taking the crisis in Syria even further – dropping bombs on the country in the same of “fighting ISIS/ ISIL terrorism.”

      Travel to the camp at Calais and you will hear a similar story of desperation caused by imperialist wars and occupations. In an interview with the Telegraph newspaper, Raihan Jan, a young refugee, described the situation in his home in Afghanistan. “Life in our villages is very difficult, we can’t live there. I lost an uncle and we lost all our property and home in the war, everything was destroyed. I heard that it is also difficult there in the UK but we will try.” As this young man prepares for the dangerous journey through the Channel Tunnel to England, he is travelling to find refuge in the same country, which alongside the U.S., invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and carried out a brutal and devastating occupation. This occupation left Afghanistan one of the poorest countries in the world, where the current unemployment rate stands at 40%. Even today 100,000 foreign private contractors remain in Afghanistan to serve the interests of imperialist governments.

      Together refugees from Syria and Afghanistan make up 27% of all refugees landing on the shores of Greece and Italy (BBC). The majority of other refugees come from other parts of Africa, a continent robbed and devastated by hundreds of years European colonization, the North American slave trade and continued imperialist intervention. The British Empire, France, Belgium, Portugal, Germany at one point all held colonies in Africa, robbing their natural and human resources. Colonization also brought with it the re-tracing of borders in Africa in ways that have led to continuous violence and conflict, further propagated by the legacy of divide-and- conquer tactics used by imperialist powers to keep their colonies under control. In the last five years, the African continent has continued to face the battering of U.S. and European bombs – from Mali to Libya.

      With this legacy it is clear that the policy of European governments towards refugees is not only anti-human and hypocritical, but also completely soaked in the blood of millions of people in the Middle East and Africa. It is clear that the European countries, rather than erecting razor- wire fences, have the obligation to give conditions for life to the refugees fleeing towards their shores.

      No to Imperialism! No to Capitalism!
      Open the Border to All Refugees!

      The so-called solution to this human crisis offered by the European governments that has now been offered is no solution at all. Although 6,000 refugees were rescued at sea in the beginning of June, the fact that there were still 6,000 refugees that have taken the dangerous journey is evidence enough of its failure. This is not to mention the horrible conditions and prospects that refugees continue to face if they are lucky enough to be rescued at sea. Furthermore, increased border security has forced more and more people to make the deadly Mediterranean crossing, as land-crossings become more difficult and refugees continue to be collectively expelled back across the land border, an illegal practice known as “push-back.”

      The only immediate solution to the refugee crisis is for all European countries to open their doors immediately. The needless deaths of the world’s most vulnerable and devastated peoples must be stopped. All refugees must be accepted unconditionally and must be granted legal status immediately. These refugees must be trained and educated for a new life, for a new future. Imperialists and specifically European imperialist countries are the reason for this pain and misery therefore they are primarily responsible for providing decent shelter and life for all refugees.

      The only long term solution to the refugee crisis is to put an end to the causes of so much misery and bloodshed in the Middle East and Africa. This means ending imperialist intervention, wars and occupations and ultimately putting an end to the system driving this devastation – capitalism. The unstoppable thirst of the capitalist system for more and more natural and human resources in the quest for more and more profit is what brings about imperialist wars and occupations.

      On August 1, the Telegraph newspaper printed and opinion piece titled “Migrants think our streets are paved with gold.” This piece was written by Theresa May, the U.K. Home Secretary and Bernard Cazeneuve, France’s Minister of the Interior. In it they state, “The nations of Europe will always provide protection for those genuinely fleeing conflict or persecution. However, we must break the link between crossing the Mediterranean and achieving settlement in Europe for economic reasons.”

      No, it must be argued, no, Mrs. May and Mr. Cazeneuve, it is not possible to distinguish between refugees “genuinely fleeing conflict or persecution” and risking their lives to come to Europe for “economic reasons.” It is imperialist, capitalist governments like that of the U.K. and France that have created so much human misery, that have forced people to leave everything behind and make a run for it just to achieve the basic necessities of life. And it is your governments that must take responsibility for the human crisis that you have created.

      Today we are living in a world characterized by the new era of war and occupation. A world, that as is stated at the beginning of this article, has created an unprecedented number of displaced persons, a world where 2.2 billion people live on less than $2 dollars a day.

      The crisis of refugees in Europe can be seen as an overflowing cup. Destroy the land, water and basic infrastructure for millions of people around the world, and they have no other choice but leave in search of a better life.

      Imperialist Hands Off the Middle East and Africa!

      Open the Doors to All Refugees!

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