Sunday, 16 August 2015

Calais jungle: Refugee camps and walls of national security

Migrating families from Syria on the Road to the West navigating the border of Serbia and Hungary. Photo from Reuters. 

It has been tense throughout the last years France and other parts of Europe. For several months, the intensity has reached a boiling point. From Greece and Turkey to Italy and Libya, over hundreds of thousands people from Eritrea, Ethiopia. Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Libya and the Indian sub continent have rowed and drowned across the Mediterranean and crisscrossed Balkans, the Alps and any other physical barrier to find refuge away from the fracasos and chaos in their home countries and regions. Anywhere is better than here or there as the old saying goes. Fighting dehydration, brutal and callous human smugglers, altitude sickness, fleeing border patrol while receiving help and sympathy from local peoples have made many African/Asian migrants more determined to finish their half way around the world journey.

The Jungle of Calais: 

The daily lives of migrants in Calais on English-French border in 2003 but is relevant today

Calais, the small French town on the border between France and England has witnessed the growth of makeshift and now possibly permanent refugee camp on its outskirts. Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from the border have been coming to the "Jungle" Camp for over a decade. Churches, mini restaurants, houses and gardens have been built over the years and transferred to new residents as former migrants leave for England or wait for asylum in France. The early groups that stayed in the camp were from the Balkans ie refugees from Kosovo War and probably Bosnian wars seeking asylum and safety in the UK. The UK is a popular destination for many migrants who see Britain and English language as the key to their futures. The media beaming British and American culture is recognized the world over. China is trying to challenge that with soft power. Since English is for the time, the lingua franca of the world, London, Manchester and wider UK has attracted many migrants from around the world. London is an international city. Some migrants and asylum seekers have family already living in England, Germany or the Scandinavian countries via legal migration or were born there.

How Immigration has changed Britain

The demographics in Britain or England has been changing for decades now due to immigration. Outside of London, there are both large and smaller towns with residents from immigrant background

There are millions of Britons or British of Caribbean, African, Latino and Asian descendant are 2nd generation citizens (just as indigenous white Britons), have contributed to British culture and cuisine influenced by Indian cooking and Kebab shops, parliament, and the future. The religious representation is just as diverse. Yet, the European wide right wing groups (same cry can be heard in the U.S.) like UKIP and Front National still scream that the future looks bleak and that multiculturalism and migration spells doom for European countries. They do not bother to see the positive benefits of immigrants and the rich diversity. As history and current events attest, island nations and empires tend to absorb cultures and people coming from around the world. Read the Ottoman Empire, Persian Empire and the old Soviet Union.

Fortress Hungary: 

Building a wall to keep migrants out and Hungary for Hungarians. Oddly enough the wall is being built by Hungarian prisoners as the government wants to cut the spending down for tax payers.

Migrants are well aware of the dangers with crossing from Calais to Britain. Many men and women have tried to cross the English Channel via the Tunnel or the Chunnel more known for its Eurostar rail route. Still most migrants hide in between the exhaust or sneak into the backs of hundreds of trucks from delivery to big rigs just to cross over into England. Many have died from carbon monoxide poisoning or being hit by trains. Train and truck drivers going through the Chunnel or through Calais used to be oblivious to the few migrants stowing away on their vehicles. However, the last years the drivers have protested and expressed their frustrations at the migrant crisis. Some have been attacked by migrants. The EU governments have been monitoring the migrants' movements placing strict migration laws and considering reconsider the freedom of movement clause to reinstate border patrols across European countries most affected by migration. Hungary has started to slowly build a wall on its border with Serbia taking the wall of national security approach to dealing with the flow of migrants. Other governments including France and Britain have tried in vain to tie migration with fears of terrorist threats among migrants. Germany has taken a calmer approach by aiding refugees and aslym seekers caught in limbo with housing at abandoned buildings in towns around the country. Some media pundits are comparing the 500,000 people into Europe to the large migrations of people that took place in post-World War II Europe. That is if you ignore the millions of people who found themselves on the wrong side of the Partition of India and Pakistan following a rough exit strategy by Britain from India. Hungary's attempts to quickly build its border fence, the newly built English Channel border fence, French police patrolling the area while playing cat and mouse with determined migrants the necessity of a better and safer lives keeps migrants and refugees racing towards Europe.

Flags, flags: The only flags that matter? Cartoon by Turkish cartoonist Eray Ozbek from cartoonmovement.

Refuge for the tired

Not all the migrants arriving in Italy, Greece/Turkey or Calais are only escaping persecution and war. Some are economic migrants or frustrated post grad students taking a risky leap to preserve their futures for safety at any costs. Others are asylum seekers or stateless. Returning home or stopping in a third country known for abusing irregular migrants and assaulting foreigners is not a favorable option. Some migrants are middle class or unaccompanied children, a few women traveling with children or determined youth. Many migrants are young men whose patience have run out for dealing with continual mountains of corruption and lack of social services in their home countries. Now there are Local governments in Africa and Asia still don't understand their incompetence with social services, bureaucratic redtape and lack of respect for their citizens make many people seek better lives and opportunities abroad. The right wing in Europe and United States don't realize that the migrating people aren't on vacation or permanent nomads. The trek for most migrants either ends in a detention camp in Italy or Greece, sometimes in Spain and by extension in the UK deportation center. For the migrants who manage to bypass fingerprinting at their first country of arrival, head towards Northern Europe where many think the German, Scandinavian, British governments are more sympathetic and comprehend the nightmarish journey faced by migrants even if it is illegal migration. Many refugees who are also migrants are deeply traumatized by decades old war and conflicts. Being hunted down like rabbits by frustrated border patrols or pestered by right wing vigilantes forces the refugees to relive the nightmare and psychological trauma they escaped from in their home countries.

West's busy hands in Africa and Middle East

The migrants coming to Europe see their breach of Fortress Europe as retribution or justice for dehumanizing colonialism and an unequal global economic system that has protected Europe and United States from their own consequences of creating long lasting instability in other countries and to peoples around the world. 

It's not secret that Western countries ie United States, Canada, UK, France have a hand in creating the current and historical chaos across Africa's north and eastern regions and into the Middle East. . Iranians sought political asylum from post 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. United States supported the mujahideen during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan that same year. Throughout the cold war, united states supported some of the most abusive and oppressive groups in Africa/Asia. The UK-US invasion of Iraq sparked a national resistance turned brutal occupation across Iraq led by the Kurdish Peshmerga, secular Iraqi resistance forces and Al Qaeda. Out of the near daily bombings in Iraq even after Fallujah was bombed by depleted uranium and heavy artillery bombs from American troops, ISIS was born in 2007. The United States and then counsel general Paul Bremmer forgetting the history of European colonialism and brutal occupations across the region, had the nerve to say that Iraqis were ungrateful and that Iraqis didn't have any reason to resist American occupation. The long standing Israeli occupation in Palestine and Israeli bombings of Lebanon in 2006 coming 10 years after another brutal bombing in 1996, didn't erase the anger and hypocrisy of Iraqis or Lebanese as seeing American occupation as somehow exceptional. The late Libyan leader Maumar Gaddhafi had long prophesied that the end of his rule would open a Pandora boxes of recycling wars, migration and allow the free flow of takfiri groups across the country. Libya is currently split into its original three territories from a hundred years ago. The destruction of Libya by NATO bombing, self entitled local militias engaged in a dangerous Civil War and now Al Qaeda/ISIS affiliates popping up in Sirte and other parts of Libya has caused a kaleidoscope of Libyans, Egyptians, Sudanese, Ethiopians, Pakistanis, Eritreans and Tunisians (who made of one of the largest foreign labor force in Africa) to flee Libya and politically unstable countries Egypt and even the mildly okay Tunisia for Europe. Now the Western-Saudi quest to somehow remove Syrian President Bashir Assad from power, the Saudi Foreign Minister was straightforward about Assad's future Syria led to Libya styled scenario in Syria. The hellish war in Syria had made of 2 million Syrians eternally displaced in their own countries while another 2 million have fled the country for Lebanon and Jordan. The Arab League has been surprisingly muted about the wars and the increase in refugee populations. Lebanon and Jordan are equally stressed out on Syria so is Turkey. All of this has caused more Syrians to risk their lives to migrate to the countries who caused hell on earth to happen. It has nothing to do with hatred. The Syrians, Afghans who are not too far from experiencing similar patterns back home, are joined by foreign workers from Libya on their journey as clandestinos to the Global North.

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