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  • Writer's pictureRory O'Keeffe, Koraki

EU must abandon plans to wreck, end, human lives

So far this summer, the EU has agreed two 'migration' proposals, each of which is almost guaranteed to cause desperate harm and terror to men, women and children fleeing their homes, and will see many people tortured, and others killed.

Members must act now to ensure the 'Migration Pact' is never enacted, and to immediately end the 'Tunisia Deal' which is, somehow, even worse than the illegal, desperately flawed, and vicious Türkiye and Libya deals.

EU member states agreed on Thursday 8 June 2023, after two days of negotiations, on a frankly impossibly bad set of ‘procedures’ which will now be presented as the EU’s ‘Migration Pact’.

Almost no part of the ‘Pact’ offers anything other than the very real prospect of an outright and overriding slashing of human rights, and a huge increase in the despicable treatment of men, women and children arriving in the bloc.

'Border Procedures'

One major lowlight includes an agreement that ‘border procedures’ should be used as standard.

This is worse than it sounds, as the procedures will involve jailing people who arrive at the EU’s borders ‘until it can be assessed whether they will be able to gain asylum', which could take 12-15 weeks.

That is, the EU’s new ‘Pact’ will see the arbitrary arrest and detention of men women and children who have committed no crime, and their detention in border centres – presumably very similar to the concentration camps the EU Commission has paid for at Samos, Kos, Leros and soon to be completed at Chios and Lesvos – for a minimum of three months (it will absolutely be longer, not least because most states do not agree to accept people forcibly returned from the EU).

This will of course increase human suffering.

Although the German Green politician and national Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, argued that this move will ‘prevent another Moria’ it in fact almost guarantees more than one, a fact acknowledged by Baerbock's government colleague, Germany's Interior Minister Nancy Faeser.

Ms Faeser demanded that young families should be exempt from the ‘border procedure’, a clear and open concession that the procedure strips people of their rights, unjustly imprisons them and poses serious risks to their physical and mental health.

It also made no sense: of course young families should be spared this despicable treatment, but then why should pregnant women not also be spared them? And people with disabilities? Old people, people who have suffered trauma?

In fact, of course, absolutely no-one should be treated so terribly. No woman, no child, no man. No human, ever, or anywhere, let alone on the borders of the wealthiest political bloc ever to have existed, in the 21st century, should be treated in this way.

In the end, even Faeser’s revealing but weak request was denied. The EU’s member states have agreed to lock young families in concentration camps for 15 weeks, for having dared to arrive at the EU’s borders, in full compliance with international law and their rights as human beings.

The ‘Pact’ requires states to process a minimum of 30,000 people in the ‘border procedures’, with a maximum alterable depending on circumstances, but certainly possibly five times as high.

Not only that, all changes to the Dublin Regulations, which place ‘responsibility’ for new arrivals on the states which they arrive in, were rejected, except to reduce the length of ‘responsibility’ for people forced into the border procedure to 15 months, rather than two years for everyone else (those rescued at sea are their responsibility for 12 months: an ‘incentive’ which should not be needed, to encourage states not to let people die at sea, itself one of the most damning possible indictments of the current state of the EU).

We must note here that the Dublin Regulations constitute an open and unforgiveable violation of international law on refugees, by preventing them from entering and applying for asylum in the state of their choice, as is their right, under the pretence that for refugees – though for absolutely no-one else – the EU is itself a ‘unified state’ which therefore has the right to move people from area to area as it, rather than they, wishes.

And the sole slight concession on the rules is to directly incentivise the jailing of innocent men, women and children.

'Safe States'

Prior to the negotiations, there was speculation that the head of Italy’s fascist coalition Giorgia Meloni, might prevent agreement (though in fact only a majority, rather than unanimous, agreement was required) and it appears that her bigotry has been rewarded by the member states, who have doubled-down on the concept of a ‘safe third state’ as part of the ‘Pact’.

We must remind readers that there is no such thing as a ‘safe third state’: absolutely nowhere in international law is the concept even referenced, let alone included as law, and the reason for this is simple. Every individual must be allowed to apply for asylum, and their case must be considered on its own individual merits.

One cannot simply claim a state is ‘safe’ and then deny a person asylum on the basis that they are from (or as we shall see, even have once been to) there.

But the EU, which has deliberately and directly broken international law consistently since 2016 by pretending first Türkiye (which is not even a signatory to the Refugee Protocol section which accepts refugees can come from states which are not in Europe, and does not even qualify to be considered a 'safe third state' under its own illegal definition of the term) and now also Libya, which is not even by most definitions an actual state, are ‘safe’ and destinations to which men, women and children can be sent against their wishes, which is itself also directly against the spirit and letter of both human rights and refugee law.

And its member states have now agreed that this illegal practice will in fact be extended, by enabling each individual state to decide whether a state is ‘safe’ and whether a person ‘can’ be sent there.

It is almost as if international law simply does not exist. Certainly, it is as if the EU, despite its incessant protests to the contrary, believes it is allowed to ignore and break it.

The examples the ‘Pact’ gives as 'justifications' for illegally forcing someone into a country they do not wish to be in are that a person might have lived for some period in the state (though this ignores the fact that they might have fled because their circumstances there worsened, or that they might have ‘lived’ there while trying desperately to save enough money to pay to travel irregularly because the EU has effectively closed all ‘regular’ transport to its borders to people seeking safety), or have ‘family’ living there (which ignores the fact that not everyone in a family has the same outlook, gender, sexuality, political outlook or religion, and there is presumably a reason why a person in this situation did not join their family in the other state).

But it then makes clear that these are just ‘examples’ and that individual states may make their own decision, based on any criteria they like, to declare a state ‘safe’ and start sending people back.

The 'Tunisia Deal'

Meloni also gained an extra concession, one that combined with the ‘safe state’ criminal absurdity looks extremely ominous for human rights and human life in the Mediterranean region: the EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen accompanied Meloni and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on a visit to Tunisia on Saturday 15 July, to confirm the EU will hand the Tunisian 'government' €1.4bn.

This cash has been given several designations, including 'economic recovery', but it also includes 'border control' – that is, not allowing people to leave Tunisia to travel to the EU (itself absolutely illegal: it is completely legal for people to leave any country they wish to, and to seek safety in any other they choose) – and the context of the 'meeting' between the four makes it painfully clear that the cash is being given solely because Saied has agreed to make Tunisia an illegal prison state.

We have written at length about the current state of Tunisia, whose economy has collapsed, while the country suffers shortages of basics including flour and cooking oil (as well as fuel and medicine).

The country is ‘governed’ by Kais Saied, who staged a coup on 21 June 2021, since when he has dissolved the Tunisian parliament, electoral commission and high judicial council, fired all judges who oppose his opinions, replaced the country’s constitution with a new document which hands him effectively unlimited power, rules by presidential decree and has had political opponents arrested, as well as closing down the largest Tunisian political party Ennahda.

He also, late in February this year, launched a racist tirade against sub-Saharan Africans, who he claimed were part of a ‘conspiracy to change the demographic make-up of Tunisia’ and were responsible for a crime wave which did not, in fact, exist.

This was, as we noted at the time, the first time in his far from honourable or admirable political career, that he had ever been openly racist against African people, and it is not – we suggest – coincidence that his statement came just one day after delegates from Meloni’s coalition, which took power in Italy only because she claimed she could stop immigration to Italy from North Africa, visited to offer bribes to Saied to stop migration from Tunisia.

The tirade, of course, led to an episode of ethnic cleansing, which ironically – at least from the perspective of the EU and Meloni herself – led to even more people fleeing Tunisia for the EU. Roughly 50,000 people have made the journey this year so far, and we have to note that many of those did so as a direct result of Meloni’s own actions.

The EU has now taken advice from the fascist incompetent Meloni, and is handing well over a billion Euros to prop up a man who seized power in his country, has crushed political opposition within it, fired and jailed opponents, judges and journalists who dared speak out against him, and has actually carried out ethnic cleansing within his state.

The EU, a political bloc which insists it must be regarded and treated as a promoter and protector of human rights and international law, has committed to hand over €1.4bn to a dictator who seized power in a coup and has carried out ethnic cleansing against people who fled their home states to seek safety from war, persecution, terror and death. In exchange for that man preventing the people against whom he has rained violence and terror from leaving his clutches.

It is genuinely one of the most despicable things we could even have imagined, and we have to ask questions about when von der Leyen will be stopped, and who will stop her, because this move is far worse even than the illegal agreements entered into with what passes for the Libyan, and the Turkish, governments.

As a brief note on this matter, we should perhaps remind readers that Ms von der Leyen, in early March 2020, after the Greek government sent soldiers and armed police to open fire on civilians seeking safety at its border with Türkiye, declared Greece 'our shield'.

We might also note that in April 2022, following revelations by the EU's anti-fraud watchdog OLAF that the bloc's 'border agency' Frontex had carried out pushbacks from Greece, and had covered up multiple illegal pushbacks carried out by the Greek Coastguard, the agency's executive director Fabrice Leggeri resigned.

In his letter to staff at the 'agency', he noted that he had been specifically instructed that Frontex should be considered less an 'agency' and more a uniformed, armed, border force (this would still under no circumstances have excused its pushbacks).

Only three people could possibly have made such a demand, as only three people ranked higher than Leggeri in the operation of Frontex and the EU border: Ylva Johansson, the EU's Commissioner for Home Affairs, above her the walking conflict of interest, Greek member of Nea Dimokratia (the government under which pushbacks have become the main response to people arriving in Greece) and Vice President for 'Protecting our European way of life' Margaritis Schinas, and above him EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

It is impossible to say for sure, but based on her statements, and the fact that she is the most junior of the three, it seems least likely that Johansson gave these orders to Leggeri, at least not at her own initiative.

Schinas is certainly a realistic suspect, but even he would have been able to have done so only with the – at least – implied consent of Ms. von der Leyen.

The reason we do not know who carried out this sackable and indeed criminal offence is because as yet, some 15 months since Leggeri's revelation, no investigation has been carried out. Not has one even been promised.

Of course, Leggeri could be lying. But until and unless an investigation is held, we must note that it is eminently possible that the EU Commission is being governed by at least one, and its border operations controlled by up to two more, criminals. This is not a comfortable thought or situation.

As a final note on the meeting between Saied, Meloni, Rutter and von der Leyen, it may be worth sharing that at their shared press conference to announce the despicable deal, the Tunisian dictator accused humanitarian workers – people who pull drowning people from the sea – of being 'liars', and refusing to address the 'real problem': smugglers.

Rutter, von der Leyen, and the fascist Meloni, stood by and said nothing.

So we shall instead.

Ms von der Leyen, government ministers, humanitarian workers absolutely do address the issue, both by saving people's lives, which your actions make necessary in the immediate term, and by campaigning for you to simply obey the law: your illegal acts - denying people the right to travel to seek safety - make 'people smugglers' necessary, and make them rich.

And Mr. Saied, why on Earth would humanitarians choose to lie in order to attack Tunisia? Dictators are often portrayed as delusional paranoid maniacs in cartoons, but must you so faithfully embody the stereotype?

Once again, this shoddy, illegal, vicious and disgusting deal is one of the greatest stains on humanity in the modern era, condemning men, women and children to misery, suffering and death, and it was demanded not by the half-crazed dictator Saied, but by the European Union, the wealthiest political bloc ever to have existed, and a claimant to the guardianship of human rights and promotion of human welfare.

It is one of the lowest moments in the recent history of our species.

'Solidarity payments'

To return to the 'Migration Pact', one other component is that EU states would have to pay €20,000 per head if they fail to meet ‘solidarity’ measures with (by which is meant the relocation of refugees from) the EU’s border states.

But it is hard to see how this might be imposed, enforced, or even how it would work. And in states like Italy and Greece, where anti-refugee rhetoric has little to do with cost and everything to do with ‘purity and demographics’, there is little chance that such payments would in any way help the people trapped under the countries’ disgraceful governments.

We feel it is important to note that this catastrophe is not yet law. It must first go before the EU Parliament, where it may meet some resistance (though the European People’s Party, which contains Nea Dimokratia, whose policy and vitriol against new arrivals is some of the farthest right-wing viciousness in post-war European history, hold the majority of seats there), and the EU Commission (which is likely to agree to it in full, as its leading members are all from the same political background as the EPP).

It must enter EU law before the bloc's next elections in June 2024, otherwise it is likely it will need to be entirely renegotiated. We must hope this is what will happen, however unlikely it seems.

But we must also note that this ‘agreement’ is the product of an EU absolutely dominated by the far-Right: a bloc which takes its lead on immigration from a party, Greece's Nea Dimokratia, which openly backs (and parts of it carry out) illegal and brutal pushbacks, and state, Italy, which is openly fascist and opposes all immigration.

It is also an EU under the presidency of Sweden, whose government is in an unofficial but real coalition with an openly neo-Nazi party which campaigned in the country’s elections on 11 September 2022 on the basis that they would force all non-Swedish people back to Sweden, and an EU Commission in which the two leading members – Ursula von der Leyen, its president, and Margaritis Schinas, its vice president for ‘protecting our European way of life’, are members of the European Right, one of whom is a member of the EPP, which openly backs pushbacks and illegal border walls, and the second of whom is a member of Nea Dimokratia whose policies against new arrivals are barbarism in its least filtered form.

As we have pointed out before, the common phrase within the EU right now is ‘Angela was wrong’, a reference to former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose statement ‘we can do this’ was made in reference to allowing desperate men, women and children, fleeing bitter violence and terror in Syria, to enter Germany.

And the thing is, she was not wrong. The Syrian population of Germany may not all be completely settled, but it is embedding itself in the country, and engaging with its social practices. Syrian children are going to schools, Syrian young people are attending its universities, older people are working, or at least looking for work.

The absolute sole piece of evidence that ‘Angela was wrong’ is that racists in Germany continue to be angry that foreign people entered and live in the state. Literally, that Angela Merkel did not cure racism.

This 'Migration Pact', which we can only hope will never be completed, is the product of that EU, an unimaginably wealthy political bloc run by bigots and the irredeemably selfish, disregarding and attacking international law, befriending dictators and attacking men, women and children seeking safe, decent places to live, learn and work.

We can only hope we survive long enough as a species to look back on this point of our history with bewilderment and disgust.


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