Us’ and ‘Them’ By ajohnstone

There is no immigration problem. There is a problem of poverty and inequality, wars and civil wars, but most of all, a problem of an economic system that render the lives of many people in the world unsustainable, sentencing many to misery and suffering. Anybody can become a refugee. Rich or poor, black or white, male or female, adult or a child. There can never be absolute safety in this capitalist world. By the Grace of God, go I, according to the saying. Only a few decades ago, the Irish Republic were preparing to set up refugee camps for displaced Northern Irish catholics.

The Al Jazeera's news organisation said that it would no longer use the word 'migrant' to refer to people trying to cross the Mediterranean.
"The word migrant has become a largely inaccurate umbrella term for this complex story," online editor Barry Malone wrote. Malone went on to say that the word 'migrant' "has evolved from its dictionary definitions into a tool that dehumanises and distances, a blunt pejorative" and from now on Al Jazeera will use the words 'people', 'families' and 'refugees'. He explains “ It is not hundreds of people who drown when a boat goes down in the Mediterranean, nor even hundreds of refugees. It is hundreds of migrants. It is not a person – like you, filled with thoughts and history and hopes – who is on the tracks delaying a train. It is a migrant. A nuisance. When we in the media do this, we help to create an environment in which a British foreign minister can refer to "marauding migrants," and in which hate speech and thinly veiled racism can fester. We become the enablers of governments who have political reasons for not calling those drowning in the Mediterranean what the majority of them are: refugees.”


You cannot ignore the headlines in the papers, the deaths in rusty leaking refugee boats, the futile attempts to scale razor-wire fences, the death risking scrambles to get on lorries and trains. We cannot turn deaf ears to the desperate cries for help. They have little promise of a future of their own. Political refugees from repression, war refugees, economic refugees who run away from hunger, and soon to arrive if not already, the climate change refugees. They have endured horrific violence and terrors. To governments they are all nobody's people. But to socialists they are our fellow workers. We offer what sympathy and solidarity we can to brothers and sisters in need.

The humanitarian disaster the world is seeing is almost beyond imagination. Hatred is once again on the march. In almost every country, nationalists exploit concerns over immigration, crime and jobs in ways that easily translate into finger-pointing scapegoating of “foreigners”. There has been attacks on refugees and refugee centers. Yet this wave of attacks has led to another wave: one of public compassion to assist migrants with their basic needs. In a number of countries on the front lines, private groups have formed to provide temporary housing, language training, clothing, and health services to supplement the services of overwhelmed governments.

“While attacks against refugee homes dominate the headlines, a new movement to aid asylum seekers is taking root in Germany,” declares the German publication Spiegel. “From Munich to Berlin, Dresden to Hanau, tens of thousands of people are standing up to help refugees: high school and university students, workers, retirees.”

One survey shows a quarter of Germans would share their homes or offer housing to a refugee.

“One needs to recognize the agency and dignity of those migrants and refugees,” says François Crépeau, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights. “They face very difficult choices as well as exclusion and violence on a daily basis, and yet they endure, they persist. Migration is most often a survival mechanism undertaken out of love. And rather than trying everything we can to prevent them from coming, welcoming them in a regulated way would be a much more productive response.”

Instead we are faced with a situation that Arezo Malakooti, a senior researcher with Altai Consulting, a firm that conducts on-the-ground investigations for the U.N. refugee agency, describes is becoming “intensely commercialized,” with migrants being treated increasingly like “market commodities,” with a clear hierarchy based on means and nationality. In Libya, the hub for the lucrative trade in migrant smuggling from Africa to Italy, the system determining migrants’ survival is based primarily around wealth, migrants said. Smugglers there aim to maximize profits through a web of extortion, abuse and ultimately price differentiation. “Syrians have put more money together, they are able to pay more so they’re placed at the top level of the boat and sometimes even buy life jackets,” said Ms. Malakooti. “Sub-Saharans are put in the hulls. If the boat takes water, they’re the first to drown,” she added.

This is verified by Lamin Wandi Dampha, a 17-year old Gambian, was in the belly of a boat for two days in April. “There was no food, no water, no light, no toilet,” he said, at a reception center in Pozzallo, Sicily. He said he paid the smuggler $300, whereas many Syrians say they pay as much as $1,800. And his claim is corroborated by others

Smugglers in Libya for example tend to believe Eritrean refugees are worth more money than West Africans, because many have wealthier families in Europe, according to researchers and Eritrean refugees. They abuse or kidnap Eritreans and extort their families, getting payments of thousands of dollars from relatives abroad.