Open borders and millionaire rescues, for whom?

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Last June 13 we were slapped by the shipwreck of the Adriana, a fishing boat, or ‘junk ship’ as they call it in the Canary Islands, one of the biggest migratory tragedies in the Mediterranean, with more than 700 people who paid up to 6,000 euros for that “passage”. It came from Libya, a country considered a chaotic failed state that has been plunged into a spiral of violence for years. It was heading to Italy following the central Mediterranean route, which is among the most dangerous in the world.

We have witnessed the hypocrisy of public and private authorities, of the media, and also of a society that treats the rich and the poor differently and unequally: omission of the duty to rescue this boat full of children, women, and men, while all possible means have been deployed for the surely impossible rescue of the five passengers of the Titan submersible. These people have perished in the depths of the Atlantic as a result of a whim allowed only to the very rich: wanting to see the wreck of the Titanic at a depth of more than 3,800 meters for 250,000 dollars per person.

Already at least 27,000 migrants have died or disappeared in the waters of the Mediterranean since 2014, almost half of the 56,000 victims recorded worldwide, according to statistics from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). These figures are “minimum”, because they do not take into account the invisible shipwrecks, where no survivors are recorded.

The European Union does not fulfill its humanitarian obligation at sea. There is no EU system for search and rescue in the Mediterranean. While we Europeans are witnessing one of the worst tragedies in our sea, Brussels continues to impose a fortress. The ageing Europe is obsessed with signing agreements with countries of origin and transit (Africa and the Middle East) that prevent refugees and migrants from reaching European shores. It is showering more and more millions on a growing number of authoritarian regimes to curb migration. A formula that began with Turkey and has been followed by Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Lebanon.

In addition to speeding up returns and expulsions, focusing the discourse on people smugglers, and omitting the creation of safe arrival routes, they also criticize the “call effect” of rescue NGOs. EU authorities have outsourced security to North African autocracies, such as Morocco and Tunisia, for millions of dollars while looking the other way when it comes to respect for human rights.

Just last June, EU interior ministers signed an agreement to reform EU asylum rules, a pact that toughens the reception of asylum seekers, focuses on measures to force returns, and deepens the externalization of borders.

It is a pact that establishes that EU member states may refuse to accept asylum seekers from other EU countries on their territory if they pay 20,000 euros per rejected person. The lack of solidarity is compensated with a bag of coins in this Europe of merchants.

The UN refugee organization UNHCR estimates the number of refugees  worldwide at 110 million, 19.1 million more than the previous year. But only a small proportion of them reach the rich countries. Two-thirds of them take refuge in the territories of their own countries. The world’s 42 most impoverished countries, with just over 1% of global wealth, are home to 20% of all refugees.

The IOM, in its most recent estimate of 2020 data, reports that there are approximately 281 million international migrants in the world, 3.6% of the world’s population.

The trend is a growth in international migration. The fundamental cause of this trend is the international imperialism of money that continues to maintain mechanisms of plunder of impoverished countries and a conflict between labour and capital that considers the person as a commodity. This plundering of their countries of origin must be recognized as a cause of the need for reception and asylum also because their lives are in danger. Hunger is a danger.

Social justice cannot be defended if we accept exclusion based on nationality or place of birth as a criterion. It is a political and moral imperative to stop the loss of human life. History will judge us.

Editorial of the magazine Autogestión