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Issue #1702      September 16, 2015

Genesis of the refugee crisis

It was the United States that first enunciated the concept of “failed states” and set out all the dreadful consequences that apparently ensued when a country fell into that position. There was a perceptual problem however: the concept runs counter to the course of human development. Significantly, the examples of supposedly “failed states” most commonly quoted – Iraq and Afghanistan – were regions that were on the receiving end of both CIA subversion and Pentagon invasion.

Four million people have been forced to flee the fighting in Syria.

Since then, the US policy makers have striven hard to create a raft of other “failed states”, from the Balkans to Libya and across sub-Saharan Africa. By a combination of economic sanctions and funding of armed insurrection, programs intended to raise the standard of living in countries across the world have been brought to a shuddering halt. Countries in South and Central America, in S-E Asia, even in Europe, have seen their economies wrecked and in many cases their people forced from their homes, in search of work if not actually fleeing for their lives.

Four million people have been forced to flee the fighting in Syria, formerly a prosperous, stable state whose government preferred being friendly to Russia to kowtowing to the dictates of the USA and NATO. The military adventures in Syria, intended to bring about the overthrow of its anti-imperialist government, are funded by the US and its client Saudi Arabia, with weapons from the USA, Britain and Israel.

When covert military operations against the Syrian army by US, Turkish, British, Israeli and Saudi undercover units were substantially defeated, imperialism turned to another tried and true weapon in its arsenal: religious fanaticism. Islamists from as far away as Australia and the UK have been recruited to fight against the Syrian government in the name of a new entity, the Islamic State (IS). Intolerant and barbaric, the IS fanatics have distinguished themselves by a spate of beheadings, significantly a popular form of punishment in the country that is the chief backer of IS, Saudi Arabia.

The vast number of refugees created by imperialism’s present multiplicity of wars are a powerful indictment of the capitalist system. Capitalist propaganda, however, is not fazed. The problem, it seems, is not the proliferation of predatory wars or the use of economic sanctions and trade boycotts. No, according to the leading capitalist politicians it is “people smugglers”. We don’t need to attempt to fix the problems that cause people to become refugees in the first place: we just need to knobble the small fry providing them with transport.

Our own fearless leader, Tony Abbott, is a prominent exponent of this line. He has no sympathy for people fleeing the impact of capitalism’s disastrous policies. They actually provide him with a convenient bogey that he can use to frighten the more ignorant section of the electorate. Australian military forces are engaged in the fighting in Afghanistan and Syria, and probably elsewhere. The resultant refugees however are of concern only for their propaganda value. Abbott is by no means alone in his opportunistic approach to the refugee crisis.

Most recently, European governments have been in the news because of the horrific treatment of refugees seeking shelter there. “Every day provides new outrages”, writes Peter Schwarz for Information Clearing House, “Corpses drifting in the Mediterranean; refugees without sufficient food and water crammed together in intolerable sanitary conditions; families with small children forced to cross hundreds of kilometres on foot; police deploying batons and tear gas against defenceless migrants; and borders and barriers, secured by barbed wire and security forces to repel the refugees with force.”

In Vienna, the heads of government and foreign ministers of Austria, Germany, Italy and six Western Balkan countries responded to the gruesome discovery of a truck full of refugees who suffocated en route by tightening measures against those fleeing to Europe. Typically, they assigned blame for the mass deaths to “criminal human traffickers.”

“While governments work closely together to transform Europe into a fortress where thousands die at its borders”, says Schwarz, “they engage in fierce competition over which state can most effectively deter refugees or send them to another country as quickly as possible. … Britain, which has accepted just 1 percent of the Syrian refugees arriving in Europe, is spending millions to barricade the entry to the Euro tunnel in Calais, where thousands of refugees live in misery and where 12 have already died this year. Immigrants who work without permission face draconian punishments.

“Hungary, a transit country on the West Balkan route, has built a 3.5-metre-high fence at the EU’s external border with Serbia and is considering measures to punish illegal border crossing with years in prison. Germany and Austria, the target countries for many refugees, are seeking to repel them with intolerable conditions in detention centres, accelerated deportation procedures and the slashing of social support.”

Poland refuses to accept any more refugees, its President Andrzej Duda arguing, among other things, that his country expects a fresh wave of refugees from Ukraine. “Czech Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babis, a billionaire entrepreneur, has called for an intervention by NATO to ‘close the Schengen area to the outside’. He referred to the influx of refugees as the ‘greatest danger for Europe,’ ” continues Schwartz.

“The response of broad layers of the population to the plight of refugees stands in stark contrast to the reaction of the ruling elites. Especially in Germany, refugees have been met with a flood of aid that has surprised and shocked mainstream political circles …

“The support extended to refugees is not just an expression of basic humanity. Many instinctively understand that the refugees are victims of a social system that threatens their own lives. There has been no popular support for the imperialist wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, which have destroyed whole societies and are the root cause of the wave of refugees. And workers throughout Europe have for years experienced falling living standards while a small minority at the top of society has enriched itself enormously. The refugee crisis is the most dramatic expression of the crisis of a social system that is no longer compatible with the most basic needs of the vast majority of humanity.”

Next article – Report on Nauru abuse

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