Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fortress Europe

Since February, the Greek authorities have taken another step towards harsher treatment of irregular immigrants by announcing a policy of indefinite detention until repatriation. It will be implemented even in cases where repatriation is not feasible. The Legal Council of the Greek State considers this extension to be not ‘detention’ but a restrictive measure for the benefit of immigrants who otherwise, if released, could be exposed to situations of danger!

Detention has been denounced as ineffective and inhumane by various international organisations and local NGOs. Doctors without Borders called the measure an “appalling sign of the country’s harsh treatment of migrants”. In a new report published last month regarding living conditions in detention camps in Greece, the organisation warned that “prolonged and systematic detention is leading to devastating consequences on the health and dignity of migrants and asylum seekers in Greece.”

Danai Angeli, a researcher with Greek ELIAMEP think-tank that runs ‘MIDAS’, an immigration control policy cost-effectiveness research project concluded “The practice of systematic detention would have been impossible without the support of European funds. Without these resources, the focus in Greece would possibly shift to alternative solutions that would take much more into account a cost-effectiveness approach and detention would have never acquired the status of a political priority.”

Dr. Martin Lemberg-Pedersen, a migration expert at the Centre for Advanced Migration Studies explained ”Despite public statements condemning the humanitarian catastrophe at the EU’s external borders, the union has in fact never ceased its support for more and harsher border controls in the south-eastern European borderlands. ” Despite the obvious cost in human suffering, the policy of en mass detentions is not only the prominent choice in the EU but appears to coincide with an agenda of militarisation and privatisation of border and irregular immigrant controls.

In December last year, the European Commission announced the launching of EUROSUR, a major project that will allow constant surveillance of the Mediterranean. Although it has been introduced by the EC as ‘a new tool to save immigrants’ lives’, it has been criticised by organisations and MEPs,  as an instrument “to serve the battle against illegal immigration”.

“EUROSUR is a prime example of what we can call regulatory capture, that is, processes of lobbyism and multi-level governance, where actors like private security and military companies, and of course the European Commission itself, are able to transform the border control policies of individual nation-states without having to engage directly with their national parliaments,” Pedersen said. In April this year, the Greek Ministry of Maritime Affairs quietly initiated a tender to rent surveillance services for its naval borders at the Aegean sea with 75 percent of the cost covered from European funds. Privatisation of security services in three of the biggest detention centres in the country has also been planned, attracting major players from the private sector like G4S, the world’s largest private security firm, which has come under criticism for the treatment of detainees. The costs, estimated to about 14 million euro annually, will also be covered mostly from European funds.

Meanwhile at the western end of the Mediterranean desperate African migrants have stormed the barbed-wire border fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla with many managing to get across. The Moroccan government said 1,500 immigrants rushed through the fence at five different points. At least 500 people made it across the border, shouting with joy.

 In addition to number of recent fatalities, On Wednesday authorities in Tangiers said the bodies of two migrants were pulled from the water and eight migrants rescued after their boat sank the previous night. A woman remained missing.

 Many thousands of Africans try to make the journey to Europe each year as illegal migrants - risking people smugglers, deserts, sea crossings and the possibility of being sent home, all for the dream of a better life. Northern Kingdom of Morocco is one of the main departure points to cross into Ceuta and Melilla or cross the straits to Spain. Once detained they can be expelled, repatriated or sent to mainland Spain.

The sad thing is, life in Europe is a very different reality to the one they imagine. It's no longer the land of milk and honey. It's not the paradise they think it is. Welfare cuts are taking place. There aren't as many jobs for them to take up.  And with the success of the anti-immigration parties throughout Europe, the situation can only get worse for them.

The say "nothing, not even the strongest army, can stop a hungry crowd". The answer lies in changing the living conditions of  these people and that will need a different economic and social system.

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