Europe’s refugee colonialism

In August 2015 when Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel declared an open-door policy for Syrian refugees — the first and only European country to do so — it seemed possible Europe would take a different course on migration. A year and a half later, it’s as if that moment never occurred.

In contrast, Europe today is outsourcing its “migration problem” to a set of authoritarian or unstable regimes in Libya, Egypt, Sudan and elsewhere. The US is now following Europe’s lead with Donald Trump, yesterday, issuing orders to block Syrian refugees from entering the United States and barring all refugees from the rest of the world for at least 120 days.

The European Union already began abdicating its response to the Syrian refugee crisis in 2016 with the EU-Turkey deal, which paid Turkey to prevent refugees from heading to Greece. Now, similar deals are being made with African countries. An interactive map by German journalists shows the 24 African countries already receiving funding to “stem migration.”

This hands off approach, aimed at curbing the flood of migrants before they reach Europe’s shores (out of sight, out of mind), resembles the strategy of indirect rule employed by European nations during their colonization of Africa and the Middle East.

During this time, European countries like Britain and France sought to control their colonies by sending a small occupying army, along with white settlers, and imposing a top down order with authority passed on via European administrators to local leaders and existing power structures.

These local rulers would be the ones who would perform most of the governing of the “native” population. This allowed European countries to dominate economic and military interests in the colonies without having a large on-the-ground presence.

In 2017’s version of this remote control command, security and defense contractors in Africa, colluding with state officials, will likely start halting men, women and children as they cross the Sahara desert and on the Mediterranean sea in an attempt to reach Europe. Ensnaring these African bodies will be paid for by European tax dollars and cleverly packaged as “aid” to quell questions from the public.

While the EU-Turkey deal essentially halted the flow of people from Turkey (at least for now, as its uncertain how long Turkey will uphold its end without the EU fulfilling its promise to lift visa restrictions for Turkish citizens), 363,348 refugees and migrants arrived in Italy and Greece in 2016, primarily transiting from Libya.

Now the EU is so frantic to cut off this migration route that it’s willing to dish out millions of dollars to Libya, even though right now Libya consists of three governments and at least eight armed groups vying for power, including the Islamic State.

The EU has already started funding the Libyan coast guard to patrol Libya’s coastline – despite the fact that Amnesty International documented that the coastguard has left migrant boats to sink. Africans passing through Libya on the way to Europe are almost all jailed – either by the government or by different armed groups. Women in detention are systematically sexually assaulted.

Human rights and humanitarian organizations have detailed the torture and abuse migrants and refugees face in Libya, often having to buy their freedom only to set out on another perilous journey. In 2016, 5,079 people drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean sea.

Continue reading on Africa is a country

By Caitlin Chandler