EUROPEAN governments have either given up trying to save lives in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, in the Channel, at the borders between Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, Spain and Morocco, and along the bloc’s eastern borders, leaving people to drown, starve or freeze to death — or they have actively made their borders deadlier.
At the same time, European states have also deliberately hindered and even tried to criminalise the activities of the activists and civil society organisations that have stepped in where they left off.
About 1,500 people drowned in the central Mediterranean this year, according to the International Organisation for Migration’s latest estimates. And over 31,400 people were returned to Libya.
Many of those pushed back are held in the country’s widely condemned immigration detention centres.
In November, three prominent human rights groups called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate possible crimes against humanity being committed on migrants and refugees in Libya.
The three groups — the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, Lawyers for Justice in Libya, and the International Federation for Human Rights — also told the ICC that EU migration policies have “significantly contributed to this grave situation.”
The situation is undeniably bleak for the refugees at Fortress Europe’s edges and getting worse by the day.
Earlier this year, I started a podcast and called it The Civil Fleet, the term used to refer to the loose coalition of activist groups saving lives in the Mediterranean.
So far, I’ve produced 15 episodes, and have a 16th in the works. Each one is an interview with at least one person involved with the activist-led refugee rescue and support operations across Europe.
My hopes for the podcast are that it draws more attention to what’s happening in the central Mediterranean. But my ultimate goal for it is that, by hearing from the people who have decided to take action against Fortress Europe, listeners will realise that they too can take action against this injustice, or at least help those who are already doing so.
Below are just a few quotes from some of the activists I have had the pleasure to interview on the podcast this year, outlining where we are and what we can all do to fight against Fortress Europe.
Simon Campbell, Border Violence Monitoring Network
“We are at a pretty dystopian moment in terms of the applications of border violence and a right-wing migration policy. That said, I think there are actions that all of us can take as activists and allies to this struggle.
“Tying in with different struggles, whether it’s the Kenmure Street action in Glasgow and the anti-raids actions that are going on in the UK, but also being reflected in countries like Germany at the moment as well.
“Looking at the way borders are seeping into the heart of our societies and how we can counter them is an important step.
“Campaigning in our own communities is as much a step in countering what’s going on as is, say, going to Lesbos and helping out there.”
Natalie Gruber, Josoor
“One of the main things I’ve learnt in my life, and one of the things I wish I was taught much earlier, is to pick a social justice issue that you care about and start doing something about it — whatever it is, whatever your ability.
“If you just start with something, you will very quickly — and much easier than you might think — get to a level where you will start to influence things, where you are actually being heard.
“I never thought I’d be in a position like this. But if everybody knew, if we were actually taught how powerful each of us can be, I think the world would be a much better place.”
Sophie W, Sea Eye
“It’s important to focus on what actually matters and what is actually feasible. One thing that I always tell people is: this is a fake problem. The whole ‘refugee crisis,’ as it’s being portrayed, isn’t a ‘refugee’ crisis at all. It’s a crisis of humanity, a crisis of empathy, of human rights.
“But the possibilities for change are endless. You just need to be creative.
“We’re never going to say no to donations, because ships are expensive as hell. If you have a few pounds left over, we’d be very glad to receive them from you.
“I think it’s very important to stay informed on the topic and talk to people about it. We have to keep talking about it because many people don’t even realise that this is still going on, that people are dying.
“Actually, the most important thing is: don’t get frustrated. I know it’s overwhelming, but just keep going. It’s good to stay angry, and it’s good to stay sad because those are the emotions that make us act. So we need them. We just have to channel them into something proactive.”
Kim, Channel Rescue
“I don’t see that the UK government is going to change its attitude to migration and suddenly see that what it’s doing is both impossible and morally wrong. But I’m going to hope and believe in the compassion of humanity.
“We need to turn the narrative round. Turn it on its head. Somehow the dominant narrative at the moment is that migration is bad, that it shouldn’t be happening and that somehow we can stop it. And those things are just not true.
“Humans have always migrated. Migration isn’t bad; whole countries are built on migration. It brings so much to a country, whether it’s food or culture, etc, etc.
“We should celebrate migration, and also acknowledge that there are multiple factors forcing people to make these journeys.”
Marie, Mare Liberum
“This is Fortress Europe and it’s deeply racist. The politicians; they’d rather migrants drown and die in the Mediterranean than reach Europe.
“I have the impression that [the authorities in Greece and across Europe] will stop at nothing to prevent migrants from coming to Europe. And the absurd situation is that people have the right to seek asylum. But it’s made nearly impossible and there is no legal easy way to seek asylum.
“You can donate money. You can raise awareness of the situation. Get angry and get organised and try to change the situation because what is happening right now at Europe’s external borders is a crime against humanity. And it’s nothing we can accept. So get involved.”
Deanna, Alarm Phone
“On the one hand, we have to demand that European states do their jobs [and rescue people in distress at sea], and we ask institutions to intervene. But at the same time, we know that they are doing what they’re meant to do.
“Their job is to implement and force laws and structures that are violent, which are designed to kill, to exploit, to exclude people. So in a way, it’s very naive to ask them to do something different. And in this way civil society is the only answer that we can see.
“Our main aim is the abolition of borders, the abolition of ourselves as civil society organisations, and the abolition of all this institutional violence.
“We also need to acknowledge that the problem here is not the violence of borders but borders themselves.
“We cannot create humanitarian borders. The border regime is violent, racist and is there to protect a white supremacist, capitalist system.”
Ben Cowles is the Morning Star’s web editor. You can find The Civil Fleet Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and here: civilfleet.libsyn.com.
Source : https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/f/voices-from-the-front-line-of-the-refugee-crisis1413