Written by IWL-FI
Friday, 08 November 2013 23:51
Throughout the entire last month the issue of the “illegal immigrants” was once again receiving priority attention from international press. In early October, more than 300 African immigrants, most of them proceeding from Eritrea and Somalia, were drowned 500 metres from the shore of the Italian island Lampedusa, when fire broke out on board the ship that was taking them to Italian territory.
A few days later, Leonarda Bibrani, a 15-year-old Gypsy from Kosovo, was arrested following orders from the mayor of Levier (France) where she had been living for the previous 5 years. The whole family was deported the following day. It may be worth mentioning that high school students demonstrated demanding her return to France.
Even with lesser repercussion in the press, there was simultaneous information that the Russian Putin administration would maintain their extremely tough anti-immigrants legislation and the radicalisation of razzias in the great cities in quest of further arrests. The same source in just a few weeks there were 4600 arrestees.
The topic of the so-called “illegal immigration” evidences one of the most sinister and inhuman aspects of capitalism, now extremely more acute due to the international economic crisis.
This issue has two aspects. The first poses the question about what can drive millions of people to leave their countries and risk their lives taking up extremely dangerous trips – as often as not in the hands of cruel traffickers of humans – only to find themselves – in the best of the cases – leading semi-clandestine lives of surplus-exploitation. As far as Africa is concerned, the answer to this question is provided by Moustapha Wagne, immigrant from Senegal resident in Italy, national leader of the Cub Immigration trade union and of the Commission Work with Immigrants of the Pdac, “People suffer. The policies of International Monetary Fund and World Bank, with the help from local governments, have massacred the land, fishing and agriculture of African peoples… They have created a situation of constant humanitarian emergency”.
In Africa 66% of the population live on under $2 a day (598 of 906 million inhabitants) and about 31.1 million people have to survive famine, especially in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“Humanitarian emergency” means that this migration may be the only possible way of surviving. European press points out that more 30 000 illegal immigrants reached this continent by sea from Africa between January and September this year. It is exactly the same situation what makes them run high risks and cope with persecutions. It is estimated that out of every ten people who sailed from Africa only three manage to reach Europe when they try to cross the Mediterranean fleeing from poverty and wars in their countries. At least 19 142 people drowned since 1988. Furthermore, only a weak after the catastrophe Lampedusa another tragedy at sea occurred in the Gulf of Sicily.
Necessity for imperialism
Massive migrations from poor countries to imperialist centres are a phenomenon spawned by capitalism. At present, it is an absolutely necessary process for its proper functioning. More than 200 million people are said to be illegal immigrants around the world. At one pole of the process there is the extreme poverty and famine that imperialist looting causes in the colonised countries and it now drives millions to opt for migration.
In the case of Latin America, more often than not the only alternative is to migrate to the USA, try and get a job there and with plenty of hard work and sacrifice save some money to send home. In many cases, this money stands for the difference between being able to eat and having to starve. There are also those who migrate to slightly more developed countries; such is the case of the Paraguayan or the Bolivians who migrate to Brazil or Argentina and the Nicaraguans who go to El Salvador and Costa Rica.
The bourgeoisies of the expelling countries are accomplices of this process. On the one hand, they allow the colonial looting that spawns poverty and famine. On the other hand, they get a double benefit: firstly, it is a useful exhaust valve to ease off the population pressure and unemployment in their own countries. On the other hand, the shipments of money from their émigrés relatives are an important source of revenue for the country. Mexico receives 20 000 million dollars (only India comes first in this concept). In other countries, such as Salvador, Dominican Republic or Ecuador, this revenue represents an increasing percentage of their national GDP and is key issue for their economies. In the case of Africa it has been estimated that Senegal, with 620 000 émigrés, obtains about 2% of their GDP from shipments from abroad. A few years ago, Home Minister of Senegal, Ousmane Ngom went as far as complaining that EU had not sent him any money or ships for coastal patrols to stop the outflow of migrants. On the other pole of the process, thanks to the migration, imperialist bourgeoisie has a numerous “industrial reserve army”: cheap labour to do the worst jobs in the services, in industry and farming, with workers who have very little possibility of getting organised to fight. This allows them to reduce the total amount of wages paid in their countries and so improve the average rate of economy in economy.
Economic crisis and the persecution of immigrants as criminals
Even though persecutory legislation has always existed, in the days of economic growth (as the boom post II World War or the more recent expansive period 2002-2007) this immigration is tolerated or even encouraged even if immigrants are always discriminated. Just as we have pointed out, imperialism has always used immigrants as a numerous “industrial reserve army”.
But when the international economic crisis began and unemployment accrued enormously even in the imperialist countries, a period of much worse persecution against immigrant workers began. On the one hand, there is the xenophobic discourse about those who come “to steal the jobs of native workers” and consequently are responsible for unemployment. This is the kind of discourse that the most right-wing groupings such as the League of the North of Italy and the French National Front, or directly fascists such as Golden Dawning in Greece amplify it to the highest pitch. Many unemployed immigrant workers are jailed under the terms of valid legislation while governments and the right make campaigns to channel workers’ anger against unemployment and the crisis of their real enemies (capitalism, employers and the governments) towards the immigrants.
On the other hand, there are the legislations that criminalise the “paperless” and those that help them. This legislation has already proved to cause criminal results: in the recent catastrophe of Lampedusa, three fishing boats watched the tragedy and did nothing to help the drowning passengers, probably for fear of being accused – as it actually did happen before – of cooperating with illegal immigrants. Before, they were tolerated as cheap labour; at present governments of EU have no qualms about convicting them to death.
Without reaching such extremes, each law is restrictive and persecutory. And so is the Italian Bossi-Fini bill, passed in 2002 as continuation of the Turco-Napolitano Bill passed in 1998 by the centre-left with the support ofRefundacione Comunista that restrict granting of visas and residence to those who had an employment contract and authorising the eviction of everybody else. This law opened the centres of detention for “clandestine” immigrants, veritable concentration camps, 15 of which exist today in Italy, scenarios for revolts, massive flights and demonstration like those that occurred in Apulia and Sicily.
Or the new legislation proposed by Obama who makes the “illegal immigrants” undergo long and extremely expensive processes of legalisation (with no guarantee of obtaining residence) while new immigrants who enter the country are still being evicted and armed custody is reinforced along the borderline with Mexico. In other words, this is a permanent sentence to clandestine lifetime, helplessness, and the worst conditions of exploitation.
Joint international struggle is what we need
And the worst of all is that important sectors of trade union bureaucracies of the imperialist countries become accomplices in this reality and of the policies of their bourgeoisies. They echo the campaigns against immigrants as well as refusing to take up the defence of the most exploited sectors of the working class in their countries.
But we cannot remain as silent witnesses of this criminal persecution in which capitalism evidences its worst features. We must organise a great struggle to put an end to this situation.
On the one hand, we must fight for immediate derogation of persecutory legislation; on the other hand, we must demand immediate legalisation (“papers for all”) for all those who are now illegal immigrants and unrestricted authorisation of entry for anyone who wishes to get established in another country.
First of all, we call on immigrant organisations and all the fighting unions (especially in Western Europe and the USA) to take up and boost this campaign.
A first step could be an initial encounter to define the mechanisms of coordination and the steps to develop it, for example: an international day of struggle. But it is also necessary to demand from all the unions and parties that claim to be democratic and all the organisations of human rights to support this campaign and to participate in it.
The dreadful situation of the “illegal immigrants” admits no delay with this task. Let us start moving!