There Is No Migration Crisis
by Jack Strang
June 20, 2019
Jack is a professional humanitarian and amateur anarcho-syndicalist.
There is a spectre haunting Europe - the spectre of migration.
In the past two years, we have seen in the news an increasingly hostile environment, both for migrants and their advocates. Europe and the United States have begun placing greater obstacles in front of asylum seekers from filing claims (which are guaranteed by seemingly forgotten international law) through bilateral agreements with countries like Turkey and Mexico. Border patrolling militias have emerged in Texas and Greece. Far-right populist politicians have grown in popularity, largely on anti-immigration platforms and the use of disturbing, dehumanizing rhetoric. Now, Western countries are seeking to criminalize the provision of life-saving care and support to migrants with the arrests of Pia Klemp in Italy and Scott Warren in the United States. While Scott Warren was thankfully exonerated by jury nullification, Pia Klemp’s trial remains ongoing. You can honor her service by supporting the search and rescue missions of her organization, Sea-Watch, by donating here, or sign this petition to demand her release.
The increasing militarization and security-centric approach to migration policy, while alarming, was largely inevitable. That’s because the so-called migration “crisis” doesn’t exist. This isn’t to say that the fact that, according to the IOM, 244 million people – 3.3% of the global population – became international migrants in 2018 is insignificant. Global movement of people at this scale is incredibly important, and must be addressed with sophisticated policies that provide durable solutions and address the root causes of migration. However, this does not constitute a crisis.
The increase in migration and human flows globally is nothing more than the natural result of exploitative, imperialist policies of the West over the past several centuries. This is also the case for most root drivers of conflict: political and conflict factors, climate factors, and economic factors.
Political and conflict factors, like the intrastate conflict in Northern Nigeria and Syria or the political repression and persecution in Eritrea, bear the marks of imperialism and colonization. The carving up of the “less civilized” world by the European powers in the 1800s, and the continued underdevelopment of the Global South by Western countries created the conditions for the pernicious cycles of violence that now drive conflict globally. This imperialism never ended, it just changed its name. Beyond that, the exportation of violence through weapon sales by the United States, which is responsible for 34% of global arms sales, and its allies to repressive regimes and “moderate rebels” have drawn out conflicts. Central American migrants at the US border have largely fled conflict and poverty that are direct results of imperialist US aggression that toppled governments, as in the case of Honduras, and fomented insecurity in the region.
Climate factors, including the rise in inclement weather and recession of water sources, most notably in the Lake Chad Basin, are the culmination of 200 years of capitalist industrialization, whereby (predominantly) Western states have pumped increasingly large amounts of pollutants and carbon into the sky. In recent years, despite the fact that the science is clear and the effects of climate change are visible, Western governments have been hesitant to take drastic action, out of fear of the economic consequences. The real impacts of climate change are now being felt across the Global South. While that is changing, it is likely to be too little, done too late. (Team Greta all the way, even if I’d prefer that the voice of the movement were Trans, Black and Muslim).
Economic factors include the lack of available livelihoods and the inability, or lack of interest of governments, to use state resources to help people claim their fundamental rights to food, water, shelter, healthcare and education. The global capitalist machine relies on the extraction of resources from the Global South and the redistribution of wealth to Western governments. Global austerity, driven by predatory international lenders, has destroyed the bureaucratic architecture of underdeveloped countries, allowing western corporations and the robber baron heads of state to collect rents at the expense of countless people. States that resist this model, like Venezuela, face decades of sanctions and are deprived of international monetary assistance through the World Bank, IMF and bilateral arrangements.
Migration has been a constant throughout human history. People have constantly been on the move, searching for new, more prosperous places for themselves and their loved ones. The rise of the internet and social media has made imagery of the luxuries of the West more accessible in the Global South. It’s only natural that people in more disparate situations would seek to find their way to the gilded citadels of Italy or France. It’s only natural that, faced with no economic opportunities, inhospitable weather, political repression or a life in the midst of conflict, that people would seek refuge in countries that so clearly have the resources to give them a better life. Migrants risk their lives, travelling across the desert and the sea, in search of hope for their future – yet when they arrive, they face abuse, detention, repatriation, and contempt. Rather than treat migrants as human beings, countries like Italy have decided that they would prefer that migrants die in the ocean. This is the world we now live in.
We have the resources and technology to not only support migrants everywhere, but also to remove the drivers of migration by creating a better life for people everywhere. So why then is global migration labelled a crisis? Fear is an important component of political control. The capitalist system is under pressure due to the global rise in inequality and the subsequent discontent of the working class in the West. In order to perpetuate this system, which has allowed 26 individuals to own the same wealth as half of Earth’s population, the capitalist class – our modern aristocrats - as used the crisis narrative to foster a false consciousness that divides the global proletariat. This division is physically manifest in the presence of borders and concept of states and nationhood.
By criminalizing the act of crossing a border and drumming up fear of immigrants and asylum seekers, the migration crisis has been manufactured. The migration crisis is a smokescreen, obscuring the real crisis: global inequality and state capture by the capitalist elites.
No global compact or international mechanism can fully address the challenge of international migration, as they don’t combat the power structures driving the phenomenon. There is only one way to solve the migration crisis: a complete dismantling of borders, states and global capitalism and the creation of a new, equitable, and just global society. Set the dialectics into motion. We have nothing to lose but our chains.3