Sunday, August 23, 2015

‘Us’ and ‘Them’

There is no immigration problem. There is a problem of poverty and inequality, wars and civil wars, but most of all, a problem of an economic system that render the lives of many people in the world unsustainable, sentencing many to misery and suffering. Anybody can become a refugee. Rich or poor, black or white, male or female, adult or a child. There can never be absolute safety in this capitalist world. By the Grace of God, go I, according to the saying. Only a few decades ago, the Irish Republic were preparing to set up refugee camps for displaced Northern Irish catholics.

The Al Jazeera's  news organisation said that it would no longer use the word 'migrant' to refer to people trying to cross the Mediterranean.
"The word migrant has become a largely inaccurate umbrella term for this complex story," online editor Barry Malone wrote. Malone went on to  say that the word 'migrant' "has evolved from its dictionary definitions into a tool that dehumanises and distances, a blunt pejorative" and from now on Al Jazeera will use the words 'people', 'families' and 'refugees'. He explains “ It is not hundreds of people who drown when a boat goes down in the Mediterranean, nor even hundreds of refugees. It is hundreds of migrants. It is not a person – like you, filled with thoughts and history and hopes – who is on the tracks delaying a train. It is a migrant. A nuisance. When we in the media do this, we help to create an environment in which a British foreign minister can refer to "marauding migrants," and in which hate speech and thinly veiled racism can fester. We become the enablers of governments who have political reasons for not calling those drowning in the Mediterranean what the majority of them are: refugees.”

You cannot ignore the headlines in the papers, the deaths in rusty leaking refugee boats, the futile attempts to scale razor-wire fences, the death risking scrambles to get on lorries and trains. We cannot turn deaf ears to the desperate cries for help. They have little promise of a future of their own. Political refugees from repression, war refugees, economic refugees who run away from hunger, and soon to arrive if not already, the climate change refugees. They have endured horrific violence and terrors. To governments they are all nobody's people. But to socialists they are our fellow workers. We offer what sympathy and solidarity we can to brothers and sisters in need.

The humanitarian disaster the world is seeing is almost beyond imagination. Hatred is once again  on the march. In almost every country, nationalists exploit concerns over immigration, crime and jobs in ways that easily translate into finger-pointing scapegoating of “foreigners”. There has been attacks on refugees and refugee centers. Yet this wave of attacks has led to another wave: one of public compassion to assist migrants with their basic needs. In a number of countries on the front lines, private groups have formed to provide temporary housing, language training, clothing, and health services to supplement the services of overwhelmed governments.

“While attacks against refugee homes dominate the headlines, a new movement to aid asylum seekers is taking root in Germany,” declares the German publication Spiegel. “From Munich to Berlin, Dresden to Hanau, tens of thousands of people are standing up to help refugees: high school and university students, workers, retirees.”

 One survey shows a quarter of Germans would share their homes or offer housing to a refugee.

“One needs to recognize the agency and dignity of those migrants and refugees,” says François Crépeau, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights. “They face very difficult choices as well as exclusion and violence on a daily basis, and yet they endure, they persist. Migration is most often a survival mechanism undertaken out of love. And rather than trying everything we can to prevent them from coming, welcoming them in a regulated way would be a much more productive response.”

Instead we are faced with a situation that Arezo Malakooti, a senior researcher with Altai Consulting, a firm that conducts on-the-ground investigations for the U.N. refugee agency, describes is becoming “intensely commercialized,” with migrants being treated increasingly like “market commodities,” with a clear hierarchy based on means and nationality. In Libya, the hub for the lucrative trade in migrant smuggling from Africa to Italy, the system determining migrants’ survival is based primarily around wealth, migrants said. Smugglers there aim to maximize profits through a web of extortion, abuse and ultimately price differentiation. “Syrians have put more money together, they are able to pay more so they’re placed at the top level of the boat and sometimes even buy life jackets,” said Ms. Malakooti. “Sub-Saharans are put in the hulls. If the boat takes water, they’re the first to drown,” she added. 

This is verified by Lamin Wandi Dampha, a 17-year old Gambian, was in the belly of a boat for two days in April. “There was no food, no water, no light, no toilet,” he said, at a reception center in Pozzallo, Sicily. He said he paid the smuggler $300, whereas many Syrians say they pay as much as $1,800. And his claim is corroborated by others

Smugglers in Libya for example tend to believe Eritrean refugees are worth more money than West Africans, because many have wealthier families in Europe, according to researchers and Eritrean refugees. They abuse or kidnap Eritreans and extort their families, getting payments of thousands of dollars from relatives abroad.


Peter Bennett said...

Would you impose a maximum on the number of immigrants arriving in the UK? Say 2/3 million a year?
If so what would sustain the infrastructure?

ajohnstone said...

Perhaps we can take a lesson from the German re-unification. Over a period of 20 years, German reunification has cost 2 trillion euros. Four million Ossies moved to the West after 1990. Less than half as many Wessies went east, the old West Germany gained two million people. And did the infrastructure of Germany collapse?
The issue is always down to politics. Where’s there a will, there is a way.

Little is said about Spain. Spain has been Europe's largest absorber of migrants for the past six years, with its immigrant population increasing fourfold as 2.8 million people have arrived, mostly from Latin America. Spectacular growth in Spain's immigrant population came as the country's economy created more than half of all the new jobs in the European Union between 2001 and 2006

Building the infrastructure such as new housing, schools hospitals would create the extra jobs and create the demand for goods and services which results in new businesses.

Did the world cope with 2 million Vietnamese boat-people. Yes. In a very different attitude, Australia settled over 120,000.

If we wish to have a long-term view of the situation the 2015 Aging Report from the EU describes a trend of low fertility, an increasing older population and a decline in labour supply - between 2023 and 2060 roughly MINUS 19 million people. The conclusion is that immigration has to happen. So work til you drop or accept newcomers and accept the cost of them which is a lot less than trying to boost population reproduction and the need to rear and educate younger future generation.

No one denies that if 2 million people arrived over the course of a few months or even years there would not be disruption to every-day life. An argument against the restrictions on EU migrants is that millions of UK citizens may face retaliatory expulsion in tit-for-tat, and that too would put a strain on social services. A possibility UKIP ignores.

In conditions where there were no positive benefits then economic immigration would subside. Sadly, the current crisis is predominantly political refugees and the need is safety and security ... a camp may provide the former, but jobs and housing provide the latter. It is overlooked that many of the present refugees can afford air-fares and the price of hotels but the law forbids it.
Many regions of the UK are actually underpopulated. Scotland has a different policy to the rest of the UK to immigration.
We will accept your premise that there exists no simple answers, opening the borders will create problems, just as closing them does.

The Socialist Party argues that the problem of immigration will not end while the present economic system of capitalism remains and suggests that it will actually increase and the only solution is a rational economic system - socialism.

We have the productive capacity that can provide relative luxury for all in the world. Because that potential is NOT put to use we have poverty and that drives the movement of peoples. No one wants to leave family and friends, they are forced to, by necessity. How many UK OAPs have emigrated to sunnier climes because the pension goes further - economic migrants, are they not, too?

Peter Bennett said...

Why do immigrants make a beeline for the country with best benefits? Not many head for Poland.
Spainish youth unemployment 49%. GB 15% Australia will not allow boat people to land. East German population were highly educated and skilled. OAP bring an income with them and create employment. I'm 79 still working.

ajohnstone said...

People go where they can make a living. The majority are not what is claimed, "benefit tourists"..many come from countries with no welfare state and more often than not unaware of entitlements and are not expecting any benefits but they are forbidden to work and forced to seek government help and to claim money..a pittance that is continually being cut.

Often to get a job, knowing the language is important and English is very common, as is French. I'm not surprised that with ex-Empire connections both countries are a popular destination.

You originally asked about mass migration and i gave a couple of examples. I will add another, the Pied-Noirs. In 1962 more than a million went to France when Algeria got its independence. Did France cope. Once again overall it did manage without the infrastructure collapsing as you originally inferred would be the case with a large influx of people.

It is estimated that up to about 15,000 people illegally cross the territory of Poland every year according to 1996 figures. In 2011 it passed an amnesty law for "illegals" Because of its own migration, there is a labour shortage, a brain drain, and immigrants from other Eastern European countries and the ex-Soviet countries have made up the short-fall.

But it is mostly a transit country like Serbia, Macedonia and Italy. Once more it is the countries with healthy economies that attract migrants...Germany...Scandinavia...they look for opportunities to work and bring up families.

Spanish recession and unemployment was not caused by too many migrants but economic policies of governments and corporations. Point the finger at the culprits, not the victims and casualties

Lets be honest the impact of newcomers on jobs is minimal compared with jobs displaced by new part-time or zero-hour contracts, new technology and automation and the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries.

Yes, OAPs bring an income and migrants bring skills and a willing pair of hands. It is repeatedly emphasised that we need migrants or several industries would simply hit a labour shortage crisis.

I purposefully gave the example of Australia to show that it is politics and not supposedly being capable of coping with migrants which is determining present policy. Diverting boats to less able countries is simply diverting the problems...

At 79, you have done well to have kept you health and fitness to carry on toiling. No doubt there will be a youngster out of work nipping at your heels saying you are doing him out of a job...A few decades ago we blamed women coming into the work-force for unemployment and low wages...Today, instead of a gender war some try to incite a division between generations...See the post just prior to this one.

It is always "us" and "them", only the us and them changes at different times and places.

prolerat said...

If 2 million actual refugees landed here,so what?

I say extend the hand of friendship to your brothers and sisters and offer hospitable asylum and respite from what nightmare they are fleeing from.

Make common cause to overthrow this heinous system which came into the world, "oozing blood from every pore" and continues to inflict misery and degradation upon fellow workers worldwide.