- 01 Feb 19
EU migrant policy is facilitating slavery in Libya, making a mockery of its much-trumpeted concept of “open borders”
The June 2016 referendum on UK withdrawal from the European Union was characterised by shameless lies on all sides.
Notoriously, the “Leavers” promised the £350,000 a week allegedly being bunged by the UK to the EU would be channelled into the NHS instead.
Meanwhile, leading “Remainers” insisted that the EU guaranteed “freedom of movement”, in contrast to the racist restrictions sure to arise if “Brexit” went ahead.
One of these Big Lies, the notion of a “Brexit” bonanza for the NHS, has been thoroughly debunked. Even the toxic clown who fashioned the falsehood, Boris Johnson, now flusters his way out of queries about it. But the delusion that the EU stands for open borders persists. True, there is limited freedom of movement within the EU for EU citizens. But there’s none for lesser breeds.
The EU has slung hundreds of kilometres of coiled barbed wire along its eastern flank and deployed an armada of gun-boats in the Mediterranean to drive back desperate people risking their lives in search of sanctuary. We hear little of this from the prissy commentators saluting their own euro-virtue in the papers every day.
Let them impale themselves on the wire or gulp their last in the turbulent Mediterranean. Just don’t disrupt the neat narrative we have woven which presents the EU as a force for progress and all opponents of the EU as bone-headed reactionaries.
Shut your eyes, stuff your ears, pinch your nose against the stench, pretend that none of it is happening. But it is.
The aid organisation Medicins San Frontiers plucked 30,000 refugees from the Mediterranean in the three years up to last November. But no more. In December, MSF announced the end of its operation in the Med. Its ship, Aquarius, has been de-registered by Panama. And anyway, it had been spelt out from Brussels that any future refugees brought to an EU port would be prevented from disembarking and pushed back out to sea.
An MSF spokesperson told Sally Hayden of The Irish Times that it had been subjected to a “smear campaign” perpetrated mainly by Italy, but necessarily with the support of the other member states, including Ireland. Panama says it was pressure from the EU which forced it to remove its flag from the Aquarius.
MSF was in cahoots with people-smugglers, the EU alleged – and was dumping dangerous waste close to EU ports. Each of these allegations was self-evidently ridiculous. But no EU government stood up for MSF. The Dublin government hasn’t had a dicky-bird to say.
The EU is now paying the Libyan Coast Guard to scoop up refugees headed for Europe and ferry them back to Libya. The American news network CNN reported last year on the fate potentially awaiting them. According to CNN, captured refugees lined up at auction houses for sale to militia bosses, rich merchants and land owners.
Here it is again: slavery – which we all believed had been cleansed from the politics of Europe – brought back in 2019, courtesy of the EU.
In 2017, as previously mentioned here, most Irish people felt good about ourselves and the country as Irish navy ships contributed to the search and rescue operation. Pride as well as anger was the dominant response to footage of exhausted refugees in life-jackets slumped, safe at last, on the deck of an Irish ship which had plucked them from the sea.
We can rid ourselves of that sort of sentimentality now.
In November, the minister in charge of the Republic’s defence forces, Paul Kehoe, spelt it out to a Dáil committee: Ireland was no longer playing a humanitarian role in the Med, but was participating alongside its fellow EU members in “a military mission”.
This change had been finessed without front-page comment in any Irish newspaper. It’s been done without fear of condemnation or even mildly critical comment in the mainstream media or mainstream politics - because it’s being done at the instigation and in the name of the EU.
The United Nations estimates that 60,000 refugees are now crammed into camps run by criminals along the Libyan coast. Robert Emmett would surely have smiled a wan smile at the thought that the Republic of Ireland would one day take its place among the imperialist nations of the world.
If those who extoll the EU were to admit the evils of its anti-refugee attitudes but argue that, nevertheless, staying in the union was the best choice, it might be possible to have a rational debate.
But they won’t admit the reality of the policies and practices they advocate and go along with.
What is the difference in political morality between the wall which Trump wants to build to keep migrants out and the fences and gunships keeping migrants out of EU countries? How can scorn of Trump sit so easily alongside insistence that EU mendacity towards migrants can be contained within a supposed humanitarian entity?
Google “New York Times migrant crisis Libya”, and on the paper’s website, you will find footage of what EU immigration policy means for people without the benefit of EU citizenship or a white skin. Take a look, then roll that phrase, Freedom of Movement, around in your minds.