Tag Archives: Migrations

The war on terror has displaced millions – this is the true cause of Europe’s refugee crisis

Desperate refugees crammed into cockle-shell boats landing on the shingle beaches of the south Kent coast are easily portrayed as invaders. Anti-immigrant demonstrators were exploiting such fears last weekend as they blockaded the main highway into Dover Port in order “to protect Britain’s borders”. Meanwhile, the home secretary, Priti Patel, blames the French for not doing enough to stop the flow of refugees across the Channel.

Refugees attract much attention on the last highly visible stages of their journeys between France and Britain. But there is absurdly little interest in why they endure such hardships, risking detention or death.

There is an instinctive assumption in the west that it is perfectly natural for people to flee their own failed states (the failure supposedly brought on by self-inflicted violence and corruption) to seek refuge in the better-run, safer and more prosperous countries.

But what we are really seeing in those pathetic half-swamped rubber boats bobbing up and down in the Channel are the thin end of the wedge of a vast exodus of people brought about by military intervention by the US and its allies. As a result of their “global war on terror”, launched following the al-Qaeda attacks in the US on 11 September 2001, no less than 37 million people have been displaced from their homes, according to a revelatory report published this week by Brown University.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 16, 2020 in European Union, Middle East


Tags: , ,

As Coronavirus Reappears in Italy, Migrants Become a Target for Politicians

As the summer vacation season draws to a close in Italy, a flare-up of Covid-19 cases is fueling a surge in anti-immigrant sentiment, even though the government says that migrants are just a small part of the problem.

Sicily’s president, Nello Musumeci, ordered the closure of all migrant centers on the island last weekend, saying it was impossible to prevent the spread of the illness at the facilities. And although a court blocked him, saying that he did not have the authority to close them, his order underlined the challenges Italy faces as right-wing politicians seek to rekindle a polarizing debate about immigration in a country hit hard by the pandemic.

In Pozzallo, a town in southern Sicily that has the highest rate of infection among newly arrived migrants, Roberto Ammatuna, the center-left mayor, has found himself trying to balance fears of a coronavirus influx with an obligation to rescue migrants in distress at sea.

“Our citizens need to feel safe and protected, because we are here in the front lines of Europe,” he said in an interview in his office overlooking the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. “No one wants migrants who are sick with Covid,” but, he said, “we can’t stop rescuing people at sea.”

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 8, 2020 in European Union


Tags: , ,

Has Germany “Done This?”: A Look at the Refugee Crisis Five Years Later

With its population of around 20,000, the town of Hassloch is essentially the largest village in the Palatinate region of Germany. Still, it is well known in the country for being a special place – in that there is nothing special about it. Decades ago, the realization was made that from a demographic perspective, Hassloch is a microcosm of the country at large, with its age, gender and economic breakdown roughly reflecting that of Germany as a whole. Indeed, its demography is so normal that it was chosen in the 1980s by the Society for Consumer Research as the place where new products would be tested. After all, if people in Hassloch like it, you can be relatively sure that people in the rest of Germany will too. If Germany is a tree, Hassloch is its bonsai.

What, though, can the place tell us about Germany’s handling of the huge influx of refugees five years ago? On Aug. 31, 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel held a press conference in which she discussed the challenges that the wave of migration presented for the country. Hundreds of thousands of people were making their way into Europe at the time across the Mediterranean and along the Balkan Route – and many of them had set their sights on Germany. It marked the beginning of years of political discord, pitting EU countries, political parties and individuals against one another. In that press conference, Merkel said: “Germany is a strong country. We have done so much. We can do this!” It is a sentence that would become a trademark of her tenure.

Now, five years later, we know that almost exactly 890,000 asylum seekers came to Germany in 2015. But have we “done this”? It’s hard to say, just as it is difficult to define exactly what “this” means, or even who “we” are. It all depends on your perspective. In Hassloch, the question as to who managed to “do this,” and when and what that means, leads to a number of places — to a city administrator, to an expert on parrots, and to extremely German families with colorful collections of passports. This story, though, begins in city hall.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 1, 2020 in European Union


Tags: ,

Where Will Everyone Go?

Early in 2019, a year before the world shut its borders completely, Jorge A. knew he had to get out of Guatemala. The land was turning against him. For five years, it almost never rained. Then it did rain, and Jorge rushed his last seeds into the ground. The corn sprouted into healthy green stalks, and there was hope — until, without warning, the river flooded. Jorge waded chest-deep into his fields searching in vain for cobs he could still eat. Soon he made a last desperate bet, signing away the tin-roof hut where he lived with his wife and three children against a $1,500 advance in okra seed. But after the flood, the rain stopped again, and everything died. Jorge knew then that if he didn’t get out of Guatemala, his family might die, too.

Even as hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans fled north toward the United States in recent years, in Jorge’s region — a state called Alta Verapaz, where precipitous mountains covered in coffee plantations and dense, dry forest give way to broader gentle valleys — the residents have largely stayed. Now, though, under a relentless confluence of drought, flood, bankruptcy and starvation, they, too, have begun to leave. Almost everyone here experiences some degree of uncertainty about where their next meal will come from. Half the children are chronically hungry, and many are short for their age, with weak bones and bloated bellies. Their families are all facing the same excruciating decision that confronted Jorge.

The odd weather phenomenon that many blame for the suffering here — the drought and sudden storm pattern known as El Niño — is expected to become more frequent as the planet warms. Many semiarid parts of Guatemala will soon be more like a desert. Rainfall is expected to decrease by 60% in some parts of the country, and the amount of water replenishing streams and keeping soil moist will drop by as much as 83%. Researchers project that by 2070, yields of some staple crops in the state where Jorge lives will decline by nearly a third.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 27, 2020 in Reportages


Tags: , ,

I migranti sono spariti dai nostri discorsi

Quattro gommoni alla deriva da giorni, senza soccorso. Alarmphone, il centralino di volontari che riceve telefonate di allerta lungo la rotta migratoria più pericolosa del mondo, nel fine settimana ha dato la notizia che quattro imbarcazioni sono in panne con un totale di circa 250 persone a bordo, senza che ci siano mezzi civili o militari pronti ad aiutarle. L’organizzazione ha ricevuto messaggi e telefonate disperate dai migranti a bordo dei gommoni. Il 12 aprile l’ong Sea Watch ha dato notizia di un naufragio, smentita il giorno successivo da un comunicato della guardia costiera italiana.

“Nel finesettimana c’è stata un’attività molto intesa degli aerei di Frontex, in particolare del velivolo Eagle 1, l’agenzia europea per il controllo esterno delle frontiere. Il 12 aprile ho registrato quattro o cinque orbite di questo aereo, che coincidevano con le segnalazioni di Alarmphone. Di solito quando ci sono queste orbite ci sono degli avvistamenti di migranti”, spiega Sergio Scandura, giornalista di Radio Radicale che da anni monitora i voli dei mezzi europei nel Mediterraneo centrale. Ma Frontex non ha dato nessuna conferma ufficiale. Secondo Scandura, gli aerei dell’operazione Sophia non sono più attivi dalla fine di marzo, mentre gli aerei di Frontex monitorano dall’alto la situazione.

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 14, 2020 in European Union


Tags: ,

A Lesbo finisce l’Europa

È il “lunedì puro” a Lesbo, la fine del carnevale per gli ortodossi: è festa, non si lavora, si organizzano dei picnic con la famiglia, si mangia pane azzimo e si fanno volare degli aquiloni colorati. Ai bordi delle strade di Mitilene, il capoluogo dell’isola, gli ambulanti vendono pesci volanti di carta, soli colorati con le code, ma a fianco dei venditori camminano dei militari in mimetica con i mitra spianati e i cani al guinzaglio che pattugliano le strade e le spiagge. Sull’isola, che nel 2015 ha accolto migliaia di profughi siriani, l’atmosfera è cupa.

Le auto della polizia sono ferme a ogni angolo e gruppi di autoproclamati vigilantes bloccano le auto dirette al centro di detenzione di Moria. Gruppi di uomini vestiti di nero prendono a sassate gli operatori umanitari e i giornalisti, distruggono le loro macchine prese a noleggio che riconoscono dalla targa, aggrediscono i profughi che si muovono ormai solo in gruppo. Secondo gli attivisti, si tratta di militanti vicini ad Alba dorata, la formazione di estrema destra che insieme agli abitanti dell’isola da settimane protesta contro la costruzione di nuovi centri di detenzione a Lesbo.

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 4, 2020 in European Union


Tags: , , , , ,

‘Just run’: on the Turkey-Greece border as refugees try to break through

It was, or so they believed, the start of their journey to the promised land, a place of safety they had longed for. Hours after the Turkish government announced that it would not stop refugees from attempting to reach Europe, a stream of people from the Middle East and Africa, seeking refuge from wars and economic hardship, left a bleak bus station in the Turkish town of Edirne and begun their journey to the border.

After leaving the buses they broke into smaller groups based on the countries they had left. Ethiopians stood in an orderly queue, as one of the crowd went to negotiate with taxi drivers. Algerians looked at their phones and argued loudly, while two Palestinian couples from Gaza stood by a concrete pilar and debated in hushed voices whether they could afford the taxi ride to the border 15km away.

The Algerians decided to walk, resigning themselves to the fact there were no cars to take them further. They marched in a long column down the well-lit and empty main road in the provincial Turkish town, their entire life’s belongings packed into a couple of school backpacks or small plastic shopping bags.

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 4, 2020 in European Union, Middle East


Tags: , , , ,

Australia’s Shame

Let us suppose that I am the heir of an enormous estate. Stories about my generosity abound. And let us suppose that you are a young man, ambitious but in trouble with the authorities in your native land. You make a momentous decision: you will set out on a voyage across the ocean that will bring you to my doorstep, where you will say, I am here—feed me, give me a home, let me make a new life!

Unbeknown to you, however, I have grown tired of strangers arriving on my doorstep saying I am here, take me in—so tired, so exasperated that I say to myself: Enough! No longer will I allow my generosity to be exploited! Therefore, instead of welcoming you and taking you in, I consign you to a desert island and broadcast a message to the world: Behold the fate of those who presume upon my generosity by arriving on my doorstep unannounced!

This is, more or less, what happened to Behrouz Boochani. Targeted by the Iranian regime for his advocacy of Kurdish independence, Boochani fled the country in 2013, found his way to Indonesia, and was rescued at the last minute from the unseaworthy boat in which he was trying to reach Australia. Instead of being given a home, he was flown to one of the prisons in the remote Pacific run by the Commonwealth of Australia, where he remains to this day.

Boochani is not alone. Thousands of asylum-seekers have suffered a similar fate at the hands of the Australians. The point of the fable of the rich man and the supplicant is the following: Is it worse to treat thousands of people with exemplary inhumanity than to treat a single man in such a way? If it is indeed worse, how much worse is it? Thousands of times? Or does the calculus of numbers falter when it comes to matters of good and evil?

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 5, 2019 in Oceania


Tags: ,

The Quiet Desperation of Refugees in Japan

An estimated 100 of the approximately 300 detainees at the East Japan Immigration Center in Ushiku, Ibaraki, are involved in a hunger strike that began on May 10. Strikers are demanding an end to exceptionally long detention periods — now typically exceeding a year — and a relaxation of the provisional release system, which places severe and impracticable restrictions on the lives of temporarily released detainees. Detainee anger is aggravated by the isolation, lack of information, and alleged medical neglect experienced at the detention center, where many long-term detainees suffer from deteriorating physical and mental health.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Asia


Tags: , ,

How the media contributed to the migrant crisis

When did you notice the word “migrant” start to take precedence over the many other terms applied to people on the move? For me it was in 2015, as the refugee crisis in Europe reached its peak. While debate raged over whether people crossing the Mediterranean via unofficial routes should be regarded as deserving candidates for European sympathy and protection, it seemed as if that word came to crowd out all others. Unlike the other terms, well-meaning or malicious, that might be applied to people in similar situations, this one word appears shorn of context; without even an im- or an em- attached to it to indicate that the people it describes have histories or futures. Instead, it implies an endless present: they are migrants, they move, it’s what they do. It’s a form of description that, until 2015, I might have expected to see more often in nature documentaries, applied to animals rather than human beings.

But only certain kinds of human beings. The professional who moves to a neighbouring city for work is not usually described as a migrant, and neither is the wealthy businessman who acquires new passports as easily as he moves his money around the world. It is most often applied to those people who fall foul of border control at the frontiers of the rich world, whether that’s in Europe, the US, Australia, South Africa or elsewhere. That’s because the terms that surround migration are inextricably bound up with power, as is the way in which our media organisations choose to disseminate them.

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 28, 2019 in Uncategorized


Tags: ,