Europas murar

Anförande vid Människorättsdagarna i Stockholm 17/11 05.

Last fall I met with Amir Heidari. He is a smuggler. His job is to bring people over the borders and to find the so called illegal ways from threats, violence and dangers to safety. Or from poverty and hopelesness to a place where the migrant can realise his or her ambitions and find a better life.
He only helps people that ask for help, that are ready to face the dangers of the trip and that can pay him the cost.
That’s all he does. Heidari has been a professionell smuggler for 20 years or so, mostly working with people that wants to get out of Iran or Iraq.
During at least half of those 20 years has he been in prisons in Denmark, Germany and Sweden. When I met him, to do a long interview that later was published in Arena, he was in a prison north of Stockholm waiting to be deported to Iran, but because it was impossible to deport or extradite any political activist to Iran he was later set free.
It was not the first time that I met Amir. But I hadn´t seen him for a long time. And I wanted to know if and how the Schengen-accord and the so called Fortress Europe had made his work more difficult. Not at all, was his answer. I was a bit surprised. But he explained, in detail, how his routines and methods of course had changed because of the new regulations, but that he and his collegues without difficulties had found new ways. Always very open, he sees himself as an political activist, a revolutionary with a mission. He told me about his tricks at the airports and bordercontrols.
Ever the optimist. Nothing can stop him. Or more to the point: Nothing can stop the migrants.
”It´s like when the water seeks new routes around obstacles in the forest or on the mountainside. If you hinder the flow people will always find new detours. It is just stupid to believe that the stream can be stopped. The only thing that will happen is that the ones who build the walls will enclose themselves.”
I believe he is right. The wall around Europe will never keep migrants out of Europe. It doesn´t matter how sophisticated it get. The migrants, the people, the stream, will always find its ways through cracks. To put up a wall around a territory, to keep people out, belongs to the past.
What it does do is something different. And I don´t think that anybody foresaw the consequenses.
The walls, the so called fortress Europe, has created a whole new group of workers on the european labour-markets. The so called migrants without documents, the sans-papier or, as they are called in the language of apartheid: the illegals. (A human being can never be illegal). It has institutionalised a labour-market that often, but not always, is based on fear.
Nobody knows how many they are. Some say 3 millions. Other 8 millions.
I won´t go inte any details about their situation, because you are already familiar with it. They have no political rights. They have very few social rights, and in some more repressive countries, like Sweden, they have actually no social rights at all. They live in fear for being caught by the migration-authorities and deported. And they are exploited in ways that are unacceptable. Some of them are kept as a kind of modern slave-workers.
They are the ones that guarantee that the tomatoes from Spain, or the cucumbers from Holland, that you buy later to day for dinner have the kind of low-prices that makes you happy.
They work in the middle of European welfare-states. But they are the invisible, brutally excluded from dignity and justice.
The other consequense are of course the amount of people that die when they try to climb or pass the walls. Every 24 hours one or two. Most of them drown. Some of them are suffocated in cars. And some are simply killed.
In addition and very rapidly new institutions are created because of the walls. Travel agents that take people, on legal or illegal ways, from distant cities to Europe. So called gang-masters that act like illegal och semi-legal labour exchanges are busy all over the continent. In England the authorities estimate that 5000 gangmasters operate, and that their turn over is around 20 million euros every year. Traffickers that use threats and extortion buy and sell people as they were weapons or drugs. And I suspect that very few smugglers have the same political philosophy and motivation as Amir Heidari.
Parts of the european economy now depend on the kind of cheap, super-flexible labourforce that the migrants without documents provide: agriculture, hotel and restaurants, domesticservices, forestindustries.
At the same time the migrants also organize themselves. We have read about the self-help and solidarity that exists among the migrants outside the spanish territory Ceuta in Africa. And the work of Amir Heidari and others can be compared to the underground railway between the south and the north in the US in the 19th century. A lifeline.

But the consequences of the walls are not isolated to the migrants. They are the ones who pays the direct price. They see how their human rights are denied by a Union that at the same time consider itself as a beacon in a dark world when it comes to those very same human rights.
The situation of migrants without documents will of course, sooner or later, affect the rest of the working classes in Europe, the ones with citizenship or workpermits. Workers rights and the positions of the labourunions will be undermined. Standards will be lowered.
The welfare-states with workers rights and the ambitions of justice and equality — the dignity of man — is not threated by open borders, but by the walls that has closed down the borders.
And every dead body that floats up on the beaches on the Canary Island or in Italy is, of course, not just a crime against the the dead persons rights as a human being — but will in the long run undermine the human rights that we who are citizens of this proud Union take for granted.
So don´t be naive. When a state deny certain people their rights, and that is exactly what we do in the shadow of the walls, it will not stop there.

One doesn’t has to be a rocket-scientist to see the connection between what I am talking about and the novemberuprising in France. Let us return to the point, the scene, where the violence started. A group of kids and teenagers play football. Suddenly a group of policemen appears. And everybody runs away, scared to death. Two of them even climbs a high barbedwire-fence to hide in a transformationstation where they die. But why did they run? Why where they filled with fear? One doesn’t need much imagination to realise that in those police-men they saw the walls of Europe — not just the walls around the borders, but also the invisible walls of racial discrimination and segregation.

Some say that the whole situation is a moral dilemma. But they are wrong.
This is not a dilemma. It is the horrible consequences of failed politics. Of arrogance. Of racism. Of the wall that has been built around our continent.

It is time to see the connections between at least three different political areas: asylum, migration and racial discrimination.
Those three are strongly connected. Political or other decisions in one of those areas have direct consequences in the other two.
One of the things Amir Haidari told me last fall was how his customers nowadays tend to stay away from the asylumprocess. When he leaves them at Arlanda airport, or Heathrow or de Gaulle, they show their 0 passports and disappear out in the cities. They don´t ask for asylum. They know that the chances to be accepted as refugees are very very small nowadays. It is much safer to become a migrant without a document, even if that means to live as an invisible without any rights. Otherwise their names, and ID:s and fingerprints will enter the system, and if they get a no it will be easy to find them and deport them.
Fifteen years ago the situation was the other way around. They asked for asylum even if they wheren’t political refugees but just trying to get a better life.
The difference between a refugee and a migrant is a blurred one. And with the politics of Fortress Europe it will be impossible, or very difficult, to uphold it.

Because of all this I have reached the conclusion that the borders of EU have to be opened. And migration free. A provocation. But a necessary one. The only one, in fact, if we want to stop the spiral-movement that moves in the direction of even stronger walls and expanding crimes against human rights along the borderzones of Europé.
This has nothing to do with the demographic discourse, that says that Europe need more migrants out of economical reasons. But is essential from a perspective of human rights, and workers rights.
I believe that Amir Heidari is right when he says that no-one can stop the stream when it wants to reach the sea. The walls are not the solution. They are in fact the problem.
I find it more constructive to accept this, and from out of that startingpoint search for the solutions to how freedom of movement can be combined with the high ambitions and standards of the european welfarestates.


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