Montag, 2. Juli 2018

The sound of clanging doors: European migration summit marks a dangerous turning point


1 July 2018. A World to Win News Service. The late June meeting of European Union country leaders may well mark a dangerous turning point. The vagueness and lack of detail in their signed agreement, and the secrecy surrounding the heated night-long joint session, are not just a reflection of unresolved clashes about how the accord could be implemented. They are also an attempt to cloak the radical and threatening change represented by what they seem to have agreed. That noise growing louder as if some future cataclysm were growing nearer is the slamming shut of borders, the clanging of prison doors and the nailing of coffins.

One of the two main concrete measures adopted is to set up special prisons ("controlled centres" for "secure processing") to hold most visa-less people arriving in Europe and ensure that the few inmates not deemed "worthy of international protection" can be expelled. The other is the establishment of "regional disembarkation platforms" in Africa that can only be correctly described as concentration camps or killing grounds for the dumping of those captured before reaching Europe or deported afterwards.

What was first planned as a “mini-summit” was not scheduled to focus on immigration. That changed when representatives of the new fascist coalition government in Italy announced it would block any agreement on anything unless the attending heads of government agreed to meet its demand: that instead of migrants being considered the problem of the country where they first reach Europe, all EU countries should agree to a common "solution".

Italy's president walked out halfway through a one-on-one meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seen as the main resistance to fundamental changes in EU migration policies. His insubordination sprang from more than the arrogance of the new coalition government in which the fascist party, although representing only a quarter of the voters, has gained the upper hand. Merkel, once the most powerful EU figure, was (and remains) vulnerable because her own Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has been threatening to bring her government down around the immigration issue. He has specifically warned that he would pull the roof down around them both if this summit didn't end in an agreement to his liking. The results have been touted as a victory for the "Axis of the Willing", a loose, informal grouping of Central European countries, Italy and political forces like Seehofer in the rest of the EU. This deliberately provocative self-chosen name doesn't mean they intend to rerun the past ("Axis" is a reference to the World War 2 alliance of Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and imperial Japan). It signals that its leaders don't care if they're called Nazis and fascists. French President Emmanuel Macron and especially Germany's Merkel may have been less willing and happy about some aspects of the summit's outcome, but they were not unwilling to go along with it.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that there is no "immigration crisis" in Europe. The number of migrants arriving has been falling sharply and now is only a small fraction of what it was at its peak a few years ago. But there is a political crisis. Fascist-type governments have now rapidly risen to power in Hungry, Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and Italy in the last few years. And the summit's results demonstrate that they are now gaining the upper hand in Europe as a whole, setting the agenda and terms for political debate, at least on the critical issue of migration. This situation has come about not only because of the growing strength of more or less open fascists, but also because "centre-right" governing parties, in Germany, France, the Netherlands and elsewhere, have accepted these terms: that the question of the day is how to keep out migrants. This is described as something forced on these governments by their citizens' concerns, but far more importantly, it's what these governments, the media and other manufacturers of public opinion are telling citizens to think.

The defeat of fascist parties in elections in the past year is a key reason why Merkel and especially Macron are in office. Yet ironically, the deeply cynical Merkel appointed Seehofer to oversee immigration not despite his well-known fascist sympathies but because of them, in an attempt to appease supporters of the neo-Nazi AfD party and stabilise her coalition government.. Macron's French government has enacted anti-immigration legislation and carried out inhuman treatment of migrants despite other laws to the contrary, also in the name of keeping the far right from profiting from "the immigration crisis". The main result in most places has been to further legitimize and embolden fascist forces. This is happening on a European and to some extent global level, with Trump egging on the assault on Merkel, and leading and being propelled by the process as a whole.

There are others also at work shaping the results of this last-minute EU summit. One reason why the EU couldn't come up with a concrete plan or even a roadmap for setting up immigrant detention centres in Europe itself is that history and public sentiment make it politically risky to bring back concentration camps on this soil. So far every country wants some other country to volunteer to host European-wide migrant prisons. The model there is some unity on is the migrant camps in Libya – the summit's final communiqué piously declared that this has proven to be the way to "break the business model of the smugglers, thus preventing tragic loss of life".

In fact, the EU has simply reversed the traffic flow and increased the number of dead. Instead of making money by extorting and transporting victims bound for Europe, Libyan militias and criminal gangs, armed, financed and recognized by Europe as the country's "legitimate" government, keep thousands of would-be migrants in official and unofficial prisons. Many have been raped and tortured until their families – contacted via the victim's phone and sometimes forced to listen to the screams – pay ransom by wire transfer. Others have been sold as slaves. This trade is so lucrative and works so well from the European point of view that the so-called "Libyan Coastguard" put together and led by Italy holds off NGO rescue boats at gunpoint and sometimes even boards these vessels so that they can kidnap the migrants. The summit specifically hailed and pledged stepped-up support for this "Libyan Coast Guard". Threats are now emerging that any NGO ships that come to migrants' aid will from now on be charged with a crime.

The summit also endorsed what France has been doing in its wholly-owned colony Niger. It's using a combination of its money and its military to turn what was until recently a major transit point for global migrants bound for Europe into a giant detention camp. Migrants are delivered from all over Africa, especially by neighbouring Algeria, an unofficial French asset and along with Libya one of the two main exit points for global immigrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean. Tens of thousands of people have been officially expelled to Niger, and many more have been simply dumped in the deep desert to die. This is also happening in Mali. The International Office for Migration estimates that twice as many people have died and disappeared in the vast desert sands as have drowned in the Mediterranean.

This is what Europe's "offshore platforms" for "processing asylum seekers" have looked like until now. How far is this from organized mass extermination?

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