What Drives Millions of Migrants into Living Hell?

August 24, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

On August 21, photographer Georgi Licovski documented a brutal attack on migrants attempting to get out of Greece, where they are subjected to hate and concentration camps. The migrants were heading towards hoped-for sanctuary in northern Europe. But as they attempted to cross the border from Greece into neighboring Macedonia, police there fired tear gas and stun grenades to drive them back into Greece. Licovski said babies, children, and mothers were among those gassed and beaten, and that families were split up in the chaos. “For the first time in my life,” he said, “I saw my colleagues—photographers and journalists—crying because of the situation.”

Migrants attempting to cross the border from Greece into neighboring Macedonia, August 21. Police at the border fired tear gas and stun grenades to drive them back into Greece. AP photo

On August 21, photographer Georgi Licovski documented a brutal attack on migrants attempting to get out of Greece, where they are subjected to hate and concentration camps. The migrants were heading towards hoped-for sanctuary in northern Europe. But as they attempted to cross the border from Greece into neighboring Macedonia, police there fired tear gas and stun grenades to drive them back into Greece. Licovski said babies, children, and mothers were among those gassed and beaten, and that families were split up in the chaos. “For the first time in my life,” he said, “I saw my colleagues—photographers and journalists—crying because of the situation.”

These refugees are among tens of millions worldwide. In 2014, almost 60 million people fled war and other horrors that made their lives untenable, more than half of them children.

Why have so many people undertaken the terrible and dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea in hope of a life in Europe? The powers-that-be portray them as freeloaders—trying to cash in on northern Europe’s social safety net. Or—at times—as refugees from countries with corrupt regimes, crushing poverty, and war that Europe simply can’t afford to help.

Syrian refugees waiting to cross the border into Turkey, June 15, 2014.
Syrian refugees waiting to cross the border into Turkey, June 15, 2015. (AP photo)

But why is so much of humanity living in crushing poverty? Who installed brutally oppressive regimes? What global system instigated wars that tear countries apart?

Half the world’s refugees come from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. The people of these three countries have been victims of bloody U.S. invasions and the nightmarish conflict between U.S. capitalism-imperialism and reactionary jihad—a spiraling clash driven overwhelmingly by moves of the U.S.

Syria: In Syria, the U.S. and its West European allies are trying to knock down rivals, like Russia and Iran, who back the reactionary Assad regime. To do that, they have sponsored or set loose a whole slew of reactionary armed forces—most of them ISIS-style Islamic fundamentalists who the U.S. currently finds it in their interests to promote. And ISIS itself has been able to take advantage of the chaos unleashed by U.S. moves against Assad to seize power in large sections of Syria—forcing millions to flee. Syria has been turned into a living hell in a multi-sided and ongoing civil war—11.6 million people there were driven from their homes by the end of 2014.

Afghanistan: The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan made conditions in a desperately poor, brutally oppressed country worse. Life for women in regions controlled by the pro-U.S. Islamist regime is—outside a few places in the largest cities—no better than life under the Taliban. And the death toll in the war between the U.S.-backed regime and the Taliban is growing. After 13-plus years of U.S. invasion and occupation, there were a record number of civilian deaths and injuries in 2014—more than 10,500.

Somalia: U.S. troops were driven out of Somalia in 1993, but today the armies of neighboring countries—trained, armed, and sponsored by the U.S. and the same European powers that persecute refugees—have invaded Somalia. They are fighting to install some version of order that will serve the interests of Western imperialism and against reactionary Islamic jihadists. War crimes and massacres of civilians characterize all the armed forces fighting in Somalia. On July 21, U.S.-aligned Ugandan forces killed seven Somali men in cold blood at a wedding. And the U.S.-instigated invasion of Somalia by neighboring countries has led to the spread of conflict and terror throughout the region.

* * *

Refugees from places where the insane workings of imperialism have made life impossible do not, overwhelmingly, make it to Europe. Instead they end up trying to survive in camps in other poor countries—like Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. For all the demagogic xenophobic ranting by European fascists complaining about why should they sacrifice for immigrants, consider this: Ethiopia and Kenya—poor countries in Africa—take in more refugees than France and the UK.

* * *

There are 60 million human stories behind the wave of humanity driven from their homes and homelands to seek refuge elsewhere in the world last year. But they share one thing: they are a product of the workings of global capitalism-imperialism, its wars of plunder and the hellish forces that system unleashes as it exploits and oppresses the vast majority of humanity.

 

What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these "outmodeds," you end up strengthening both.

While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these "historically outmodeds" has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and in particular the U.S. imperialists.

Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:28

 

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