SOME REFLEXIONS AND PROPOSALS EXTRACTED FROM A PAMPHLET DIFFUSED BY THE FRENCH COMMUNIST PARTY
OUR COMMON INTEREST
by Lydia Samarbakhsh, International Affairs, French Communist Party
The “Road to the Balkans” is a hellish road indeed.
European leaders, who have turned a deaf ear to warnings from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, have talked about the need to “protect European populations” – populations that they have chosen not to protect from the current economic and social crisis, on the contrary. Faced with an unprecedented crisis, these leaders, who have obstinately refused to turn away from the policy of austerity that impoverishes our country and our people, have decided – not to save lives – but to close off their borders, confine migrants to camps, put up barbed wire fences, mobilise armed forces to hunt down refugees, fuel the panic spread by the right and the far right, which blusters that Europe will be “submerged”. In Hungary and Denmark, there is now a proposal to confiscate migrants’ property, what little they may have been able to carry out with them. This is a violent reminder of the darkest years of our history.
Faced with the distress of entire families fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the tragic deaths of thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, faced with the determination to survive of the thousands of women and men fleeing extreme poverty, climate disruption, or dictatorships, the inhabitants of Greek islands and Italian coastal towns have not been scared stiff or too overwhelmed to act, quite the opposite: they have shown tremendous solidarity by coming to the aid of the migrants who make their way to these European shores.
All over Europe, networks of solidarity have been organised, while the governments have preferred to set populations off against one another by stirring fears of unemployment, the uncertain future and the instability of living conditions. All of these fears have been reinforced by terrorist attacks leading to the intentional confusion of “migrants” and “terrorists”.
Some are dreaming of excluding Greece from the Schengen Area – Greece which has, on its own, had to handle the arrival of thousands of migrants, and whose Prime Minister is the only European leader to have met with refugees and those who are working to develop solidarity.
While it is true that migrants and refugees are more numerous than ever before, there has been no “invasion”, certainly not in France … the facts prove it.
SO WHY THIS OPERATION?
Because playing on the fear of migrants entering the country is a way to camouflage the real causes of the difficulties facing French people – difficulties that are the consequence of austerity policies and submission to neo-liberal dogma that creates unemployment, low wages and social disintegration. Austerity and solidarity are incompatible.
Playing on the mistrust of “others”, involves presenting them as being desperate people, whereas they are in fact motivated by the peaceful hope for a better life. This is a way of denying any responsibility for the global disequilibrium that causes the massive movements of populations. The migrant crisis is international: all continents are affected; indeed, 80% of global migration – now at a historic high – is among countries of the south. Solutions must be implemented on a global level as well.
So how should we respond to this vast undertaking of falsification that seeks to muddy the waters and has led to an impasses at the very moment when it is urgent that we move forward?
The French Communist Party has outlined proposals that we develop in this pamphlet. It is a matter of a different approach, but there are also policies that could be implemented today. I would point out three that should be implemented simultaneously:
• First of all, migrants have rights that have been established by international institutions and ratified by States that are committed to ensuring them. The courage and dedication of associations, activists and elected officials that act to promote and protect the rights and dignity of migrants are praiseworthy. The government should listen to and support them.
• Policies of austerity, by degrading the living and working conditions in our country, damage the vitality of the values of equality and fraternity as well as peaceful coexistence; these policies impact work, public services, the right to education, health, and other collective and individual rights. When the national and local budgets are squeezed to asphyxiation, equality and justice cannot thrive.
• Lastly, French foreign policy must change. The increase of migration around the world is three-fold in origin: flight from conflict and violence; escape from extreme poverty to provide a better life for families; fleeing climate disturbances that our modes of development and production – but also the logic of “free trade” – have engendered. To attack the causes of migration is thus to promote a new world order, based on peace and development and the reduction of inequalities fostered by predatory global capitalism; it is also the best way to begin to undermine religious fundamentalism and terrorism. If the war in Syria were to end, thousands of Syrians could return to their homes.
The French and immigrants share a common interest: building a society based on justice, sharing and the common good, meeting the aspirations of all citizens for equal rights and freedom.
This is the way to the future, a future that welcomes each and every one of us.
RETURN TO HUMAN RIGHTS
by Patrick Le Hyaric, Member of the European Parliament, Director of l’Humanité
The migratory crisis has changed the face of Europe. The essential origin is the war that continues in the Middle East, and that has cast hundreds of thousands of people on the road of exodus, victims of violence and persecution. The Islamic State is determined to carry out terrorist attacks within Europe and this threat has had an impact on European opinion with regard to migration issues.
The response, however, must not be a movement towards seeking security in isolation within fortress Europe. Such a reaction is the equivalent trampling underfoot the very values we claim to hold dear. Furthermore, ignoring these issues only serves to aggravate the crisis: we cannot prevent men and women from fleeing massacres. This is no way to encourage peaceful resolution of the conflicts in the Middle East. France must choose to play a much more active and positive role to ensure that the right to asylum is guaranteed under the terms of international agreements and the Geneva Convention, which it is party to. We cannot stand by the declaration of Mr. Valls, made on 18 November 2015, in Germany, and reported by the “Süddeutshe-Zeitung”: “ We cannot welcome more refugees”.
Initially, the European Union had suggested that they would open the door – or set it ajar at least – and implement a modest policy of “relocation” of migrants, a large number of whom had landed in Italy and Greece, with a quota system per country. The reality soon proved quite different. France has thus welcomed a meagre 19 asylum seekers “in obvious need of protection” since the month of September. In the European relocation plan, covering 160,000 people, France agreed to take in 30,000 migrants over two years, a far cry from the 19 individuals actually accommodated thus far. It is shameful! In all of Europe, some 200 people have benefitted from relocation. As for the extra-quota number of people requesting asylum in our country, it has only increased by 15-20% compared to 2014. That was a year when numbers were down, with between 75,000 and 80,000 requests. The increase is likely related to the situation in Calais and Dunkerque, where a there is a concentration of migrants who wish to go to England and have been refused, and who are living in appalling conditions.
These figures compare badly with Germany, where more than a million migrants arrived in 2015. But now hostility towards refugees is growing throughout Europe. In Eastern and Central Europe, this hostility has an outright racist tendency, with the erection of barbed wire fences and manhunts that are contrary to the founding principles of the European Union. In Sweden, refugees’ personal property is confiscated. Measures of control and surveillance at the border of the Union have been reinforced; Greece and Italy are being pressured to close off their borders; a dubious agreement with Turkey aims at keeping a maximum number of Syrian refugees in that country.
We must do all we can to escape this deadly logic and create safe passage for refugees and meet this difficult challenge in compliance with UN agreements.
CALAIS: FOR HUMAN SOLUTIONS
by Dominique Watrin, Senator from Pas-de-Calais
In many ways, Calais is at an impasse. Impasse of security policies: administrative and legal procedures, deportation and forced removals which have now reached unprecedented numbers (a thousand people were removed to centres for “rétention administrative” – administrative detention – in recent weeks) in order to avoid a “suction effect”, that is encouraging others to come.
Impasse in policy: separation of political refugees from economic migrants “who should be escorted to the border” according to Bernard Cazeneuve, whereas the Calais “jungle” is populated by Eritreans, Afghans, Iraqis and very few Syrians.
Impasse in the logic of war that the powerful nations have developed in the Middle East for the past 25 years, laying the groundwork for dictators and ISIS.
Above all, I want to pay tribute to the people of Calais, suffering on many fronts: a record high unemployment rate (16%), ongoing job losses (lace-making, Tioxide, My Ferry Link, etc.); and the poverty and instability of our circumstances are reinforced by the dead-end situation of the migrant population.
I would also pay tribute to the humanitarian association who are present twenty-four hours a day to proffer assistance to the refugees, and who carry out essential work (social, legal, health) and provide human contact. Doctors of the World and Catholic Relied-Caritas had to go so far as to plead before the Administrative Court of Lille for an official recognition that the 4,500 migrants in Calais “were in fact exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment”, crowded in unhealthy conditions.
The Communist Senators from the Nord/Pas-de-Calais regularly meet with employees from the Channel Tunnel, trade unionists, humanitarian associations and the refugees themselves. Today we are sending an urgent appeal to the government.
We, Communist MPs from the Nord/Pas-de-Calais, assert that the logic of force is vain, as we have seen in the failure of forced relocation. After the evacuation of the Téteghem camp, the vast majority of displaced persons returned. Their first goal is to reach the UK where they have family, where under-paid work is easy to find, and where they speak the language!
France must renegotiate the Touquet agreements signed by Nicolas Sarkozy and which fixed the English border at Calais! Tighter security with a border that is quasi-impenetrable will turn this migratory impasse a ticking bomb.