Tuesday, March 28, 2017

‘Regime change refugees’

Prejudices are the chains forged by ignorance to keep men apart. ~ Countess of Blessington

Tens of thousands of asylum seekers are cruelly languishing at sea with one nation after another turning them back. The ‘regular pathways’ to resettlement are a myth with annually on average less than 80,000 refugees resettled worldwide. According to the UNHCR, in the five years to 2013, 358,781 refugees from 111 countries were resettled, but more than fifteen million refugees languish. With this sort of global resettlement rate there is no orderly regular migration pathway, just the deserting of millions of people. 

The migrants coming to Europe are mostly fleeing conflicts. The data on origins make that clear. The migrants are coming primarily from Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Pakistan in the Middle East, and to a lesser extent from Eritrea, Somalia and Nigeria in Africa. These are all countries with vicious conflicts — conflicts that (with the exception of Nigeria) began with Western military intervention, direct or indirect and continued to be fueled by intervention. In Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia the intervention was very direct. In Syria, Pakistan and Eritrea, it has been less direct but very clear nonetheless.”The term ‘regime change refugees’ helps focus on where the primary responsibility lies. Official discourse in Europe and the United States frames the civil wars and economic turmoil in terms of fanaticism, corruption, dictatorship, economic failures and other causes for which Western governments and publics believe they have no responsibility. The Western leaders and media stay silent about the military intervention and regime change, interventions that have torn the refugees’ homelands apart and resulted in civil war, state collapse and extremely violent conditions lasting for long periods. Some European leaders  are arguing in favour of further military intervention in these war-torn lands on their periphery as a way to ‘do something’ and (ironically) ‘end the violence.’

Some politicians will scapegoat immigrants (or other vulnerable people) for people suffering. When this happens, hold on tight to your purse or wallet. They’re trying to distract you from the rich and powerful elites who are rigging the rules to get more wealth and power. They want to deflect your attention away from the reality that your economic pain. 

The so-called refugee crisis in Europe is only the tip of the iceberg. The 10 countries hosting the highest number of refugees are actually not in Europe, but in developing countries. Developing countries hosted 86% of the world’s refugees in 2014. In fact, just 10 counties host nearly 60% of the world’s refugees: Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda, DR Congo and Chad (UNHCR data). Furthermore, among the 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, about 1/3 are refugees or asylum-seekers, while 2/3 are internally displaced people (IDPs). Between 1975 and 2009, 80% of the refugees relocated to a country in proximity to their home state.

Europe’s population is ageing. The EU’s working-age population will decline by 3.5 million people by 2020 according to Eurostat estimates. Europe needs workers, and migrants can mitigate the effects of an ageing and shrinking population, in a wide variety of fields of employment. 

 “After years of neglect, this administration has taken a strong stand to stiffen the protection of our borders. We are increasing border controls by 50 percent. We are increasing inspections to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants. And tonight, I announce I will sign an executive order to deny federal contracts to businesses that hire illegal immigrants.” 

No, not Trumps latest pronouncement on the Wall and stopping immigrants but Bill Clinton in Jan. 23, 1996.  It isn’t factually accurate to brand Trump's anti-immigration policies as unprecedented or an aberration.

Clinton went on to sign the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), enacted in April 1996; and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which passed in September of the same year. Together, the two acts had the net effect of the changes was to vastly expand the number of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, subject to removal from the country. In 1990, a 14-mile, triple-deep fence was constructed in San Diego. In 1996, the IIRIRA authorized the federal government to build additional barriers. And in 2006, the Secure Fence Act was passed, authorizing completion of still more. Today, there are 700 miles of fencing along the southern border. Among those voting in favor of the Secure Fence Act was Hillary Clinton, then the junior Democratic Senator from New York. Nor should we forget that under Obama  more people were deported from the U.S. during the administration of President Barack Obama than during that of any other president and the Border Patrol’s budget expanded from $5.9 billion 2003 to $11.9 billion in 2013, while ICE’s grew from $3.3 billion to $5.9 billion. As of 2013, the two agencies had a total budget of nearly $18 billion, and that number increased to nearly $20 billion in 2016. 

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