Joe Higgins TD on the plight of refugees

All over Europe, ordinary working people are shocked and horrified at the tide of human suffering being endured by people fleeing from the war zones of the Middle East and North Africa as well as the repression and awful poverty inflicting these regions of the world.

The present day equivalents of the coffin ships of the Irish Famine have seen thousands of migrants drown in the Mediterranean this year. Survivors tell tales of horror like being beaten into and locked in virtually airless holds by the gangster traffickers who prey on their desperation to escape to what they hope will be a better life in Europe. The discovery of 71 decomposing bodies in a trafficker’s truck in Austria shows that those who try to make it by land can also face a fate too horrible to dwell on.

Indictment of global capitalism

The refugee crisis – and it is now a terrible crisis for millions of displaced people – is a damning indictment of the failure of global capitalism to meet the needs of human development. Even more, it is a testament to the unqualified disaster wrought by the catastrophic intervention of the imperial powers in the greater Middle Eastern Region.

Islamic State, wedded to medieval obscurantism and deploying the most barbaric methods in its campaign, is the end result of Russian and Western policies reaching back to Afghanistan in the 1980s and through to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. This is not to mention the legacy of centuries of conquest and robbery of resources, especially as oil became a crucial resource for capitalist production.

EU hypocrisy

Article 2 of the 1992 treaty on European Union declares:

“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”

While the claim to stand for solidarity between member States has been shot to bits by the financial strangulation of the Greek people, the lavish claims to be the foremost champions of human rights is rendered hollow in the extreme by the treatment of those currently fleeing war and poverty.

The Israeli state is rightly reviled for its apartheid-like separation wall in the West Bank to imprison the Palestinian people, however the European Union now has its own equivalent with the right-wing Hungarian government erecting 175 km of razor wire between Hungary and Serbia to keep desperate migrants out. That is not to mention the detention centres around the EU nor the horrific situation in Calais where thousands of refugees are in the most squalid and inhuman conditions as they try to seek asylum in Britain.

Defend the right to asylum

Socialists, and indeed anyone who stands for human rights and solidarity, demand immediate changes to the policy of EU states whereby those fleeing persecution, conflict and economic disaster are provided with a safe pathway to securing the right to remain and work.

More broadly, the causes of millions of displaced people being forced from their homelands by war and conflict and the plight of hundreds of millions living in abject poverty cry out for system change. Capitalism as represented by the huge power of multinational corporations’ ownership and control of resources right around the world and driven by greed for super profits will never meet the needs of humanity. Even within the European Union which contains many of the most advanced economies in the world, a shameful 25 million people are unemployed including a preponderance of young people.

On both a European and world scale freeing society from the grip of a system catering for a tiny minority and planning and utilising the resources for the vast majority is key.  A socialist alternative where the wealth is democratically publicly owned and used for the benefit of that majority would be capable of addressing the root causes of deprivation and war and would build a system that would meet the needs of humanity including democratic and human rights for all.