EU ob­ses­sion with mi­gra­tion is shame­ful, racist and fa­tal

The Observer - - Comment & Analysis -

Itwas the most shame­ful piece of news from the past week. Yet it was barely cov­ered. The char­ity Médecins Sans Fron­tières (MSF) has been forced to end its res­cue op­er­a­tions in the Mediter­ranean be­cause of pres­sure and ha­rass­ment from Euro­pean na­tions, most no­tably Italy.

“A sus­tained cam­paign… to

dele­git­imise, slan­der and ob­struct,” as MSF put it.

For the past two months the MSF res­cue ship Aquar­ius has been docked in Mar­seille af­ter Ital­ian pres­sure led Panama to re­voke the ship’s reg­is­tra­tion. Last Novem­ber Ital­ian mag­is­trates ac­cused MSF of il­le­gally dump­ing toxic waste at ports in south­ern Italy and or­dered Aquar­ius to be im­pounded.

What toxic waste? Clothes worn by mi­grants and food from the jour­ney. The Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties claimed the clothes could be

har­bour­ing the HIV virus, play­ing to old racist tropes about mi­grants car­ry­ing dis­ease. Had Rus­sia or China pur­sued such a cam­paign, there would have been an out­cry. There has been far more anger at Don­ald Trump’s use of tear­gas against mi­grants at the Mex­i­can bor­der than about EU poli­cies that have led to thou­sands of deaths.

There is a long his­tory of the EU crim­i­nal­is­ing res­cue ef­forts. In the past, such ac­tions might have gen­er­ated out­rage. To­day there is barely a shrug of the shoul­ders.

Fortress Europe has con­structed not just a phys­i­cal bar­rier but an emo­tional one. Mi­grants have come to be seen less as hu­man be­ings than so much flot­sam and jet­sam.

So blinded have Euro­pean au­thor­i­ties be­come by their ob­ses­sion with im­mi­gra­tion that they have lost the abil­ity to recog­nise the most ba­sic of obli­ga­tions to other hu­man be­ings. A few thou­sand drowned Africans and Asians ev­ery year is, for many, a price worth pay­ing to keep the lid on the im­mi­gra­tion de­bate at home.

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