“Avalanche”; “Invasion of Foreigners”; “80,000 Sub-Saharans Hoping to Jump the Fences of Ceuta and Melilla and Cross the Straits into Europe”; “Is It Too Much to Ask That They Don’t Come Illegally?”
Above are some of the phrases used by our political leaders and many people in the streets when describing the desperation of impoverished PEOPLE at the gates of our European walls. And it is not a trivial issue. The growth in extreme right-wing xenophobia in Europe is no joking matter – whether in Ukraine, France, or Spain.
When the gates are opened and the red carpet is laid out for over 60 million migrant tourists, for rich pensioners or Sheikhs, or for foreign investors, the terms above are not used. The forced migration of impoverished humans from around the world, meanwhile, is treated in a very different way. In their case, the walls of Europe are opened and closed bloodily, violently, and with whatever tools are considered necessary.
Official unions abandoned activism in the search of agreements with their governments long ago and, in the process, gave in to the state of protectionism that reigned in Europe (and became a burden for competition in an increasingly globalised world). The borders were soon opened to the desperate workers of other nations, and the economic powers of Europe threatened the ‘protected’ work with a ‘reserve army’ of slave labourers. Many of these workers were ‘undocumented’, and the powerful knew it. They were prepared to do the worst jobs that no-one else wanted to do, and were paid hunger wages that few protected or unionised workers thought undignified enough to criticise or worry about. Then the ‘adjustments’ came, with the powerful calling them a ‘crisis’, and things changed.
European governments have allegedly recognised that they need another 50 million immigrants between now and 2050, as a result of the rapid decline and ageing of their own working populations. Now, however, it is qualified immigrants who are required – immigrants with “blue cards”. With the economic ‘adjustments’ pushing millions of people into unemployment or precarious contracts, many European nations now have a big enough ‘reserve army’ of their own without needing unqualified migrants from abroad. The walls of Europe are thus opened and closed at the whims of the economic elites and their interests.
The walls are to be shut to those who are just as worthy as anyone else but who are now dispossessed of their dignity by their ‘illegal’ status. They are contained in the desert, in battlefields, in refugee camps and, most importantly, on the other side of the wall. Uprooted by the permanent corporate plundering of Africa by large companies from Europe and elsewhere, they are left with nowhere to go. And many console themselves with the thought that, if they arrive on our shores, they will face a grim existence.
Borders are only rational for the rich but, as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved, the poor will continue to migrate. And their problems will only be resolved if the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation is ended once and for all, and the structural causes of inequality are dealt with. Meanwhile, however, the human spirit of survival when confronted with injustice will ensure that migration will continue – no matter how many walls are built.
Translation by Oso Sabio which will appear at http://www.solidaridad.net/idioma/3/english