Migrant deaths due to Fortress Europe


They are the sort of deaths which rarely merit more than a passing reference in the mainstream media - a battered ship which sinks in the Mediterranean, a stowaway found dead in the cargo hold of a ship or plane, a nameless asylum seeker who takes his/her life, no longer able to take the pressure in one of the EU's many 'detention centres'. Now and again, as with the 58 Chinese people found dead in the back of a truck in Dover in June of this year, the cases are so horrific that they cannot be ignored. Then they become big news for a day or two only to sink off the political agenda just as quickly.

These are the victims of 'Fortress Europe' - the human cost of a policy which places the needs of capital over the rights of people. It is a policy which has had horrific consequences. "UNITED for Intercultural Action", a European Network "against nationalism, racism, fascism and in support of migrants and refugees" has been monitoring deaths associated with 'Fortress Europe' since 1993. The results* make horrific reading.

In fact over 2063 people have died in and around the European Union since 1993 as a result of the anti-refugee policies of governments across Europe.

"Instead of finding a safe place and a better perspective for their life people have drowned, suffocated, been beaten to death by racist attackers, gagged to death by policemen or committed suicide in despair.

These deaths can be put down to border militarisations, asylum laws, detention policies, deportations and carrier sanctionsÉ.. As possibilities for legal entry for refugees and migrants are more and more restricted, and as borders are made more impermeable, people are forced to take more and more dangerous routes."[1]

Thousands die attempting to reach the 'promised land' of the EU. 'Traffickers' are blamed for these deaths (when anyone bothers to ask who is responsible) but very few ever ask why the traffickers have such power over human lives.


As governments throughout the EU dance to the 'globalisation' tune, the free flow of capital is accompanied by the erection of barriers against the free movement of people. In Britain, for example, Tony Blair's New Labour government has deported or excluded over 113,100 people since coming to power in May 1997.

The human cost alone should be enough to oppose the introduction of ever more stringent border controls. There is however a more fundamental principle at stake. As anarchists, we argue that the rights of individuals to travel freely and to live where they choose must take precedence over the rights of states. Unfortunately, though, many of the people attempting to make it into Europe are not doing so from the point of view of 'exercising a choice'. Much more often, it is a journey of desperation - fleeing from persecution or extreme poverty, hoping to establish a new life in a new place.

People do not lightly make the decision to uproot themselves from their home countries and to travel halfway across the world. If, however, they do so - for whatever reason - they deserve a chance to make their way freely to somewhere more hospitable, to travel without restriction, to work and to get the support of a community. Simple humanity demands this. Unfortunately simple humanity has little role in the world of the Single European Currency.

No immigration control

Many people would in fact agree that the current 'Fortress Europe' policies are too stringent, and would like to see them reformed. Some balk, however, at the notion of the complete abolition of immigration controls. Yet, those who do not unequivocally state their opposition to the notion that a small group of people can decide who is allowed to live where, are unconsciously accepting the supposed logic of the architects of 'Fortress Europe'. Because the policies of 'Fortress Europe' do not envisage only allowing people born within the EU's borders to live here.

The key qualification is the size of your bank balance. Wealthy businessmen have had no difficulty buying Irish passports - even when in some recent cases the sources of their wealth were to say the least dubious. Yet people born in Germany of immigrant parents can never become German citizens. The Irish Department of Justice has also on more than one occasion looked at the possibility of withdrawing the automatic right to Irish citizenship currently given to children born in Ireland to immigrant parents.

Ultimately, it is money and access to money which is being used to dictate who can come into the EU. And money is in fact what this is all about! The 'globalisation' of capitalism in recent years marks a further entrenchment of the imbalance in wealth between the 'developed' and 'developing' worlds. This increasing imbalance has led to an increase in the number of people from Eastern Europe, Africa and elsewhere attempting to make their way to the 'developed' world in search of a better life - indeed in some cases in search of survival.

EU governments have responded by building ever stronger walls around 'Fortress Europe', by making clear their intention to criminalise ever further people who try to come here to make a better life for themselves and their families. The extension of 'Fortress Europe' is another aspect of the globalisation of capitalism. Resistance to it is a challenge for anarchists and radicals throughout Ireland and the EU.

by Gregor Kerr
(Anti-Racism Campaign, personnal cap.)

* on the web at http://www.united.non-profit.nl

1 UNITED for Intercultural Action press release 14/6/2000

This article is from Workers Solidarity 60 - September 2000

Download the PDF file of WS 60