Unravelling the Mediterranean Migration Crisis – field work notes 2016

Published 26 January 2016 / By COMPAS Communications

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This blog series covers periodic updates from Franck Düvell on his experiences in 2016 conducting research for the ESRC-funded project Unravelling the Mediterranean Migration Crisis (MEDMIG). Further posts can be found on the project page.

30 January 2016

EU, Greek government and Neo-Nazis hand in hand against volunteers rescuing refugees?!

Whilst the EU and Greek government aim restricting and criminalising NGOs (see previous post), neo-Nazis attack and burn down NGO facilities (see Statewatch report).

26 January 2016

Nationalists and xenophobes, not refugees, jeopardise the EU

After almost 60 years of peaceful cohabitation, free movement of goods and people and prosperity the EU and with it the post-war peace, political and economic order is seriously jeopardised. The EU now faces a fundamental political crisis.

Either the one million refugees who arrived in 2015, Greece which is accused of failing to protect the exernal borders or sometimes Germany for acknowledging refugees are blamed for the crisis. This, however, bluntly ignores the obligations arising from law Greece and the EU have towards refugees who therefore cannot simply be turned away.

Instead, it is in fact the 12 conservative or rightwing national governments (UK, Denmark, Spain, Hungary, Poland etc), the other Europhob or xenophobic administrations (Czech Republic, Slovenia etc), the ultra-right political parties (FN, Sweden Democrats, True Finns, AFD, FPO etc) and the European electorate that are either Eurosceptic (23%, or 97 million) or anti-immigration (59%, 250 million) that push the EU into crisis.

It is the attitudes of nationalist, xenophob, Islamophob Europe, the hundreds of millions nationalist and xenophop Europeans but not the one million refugees that jeopardise the EU.
Anti-EU sentiments are not new to the EU (15% in 2006) and neither are anti-immigration sentiments (in 2006 14% expressed concerns over immigration). Meanwhile, the current refugee crisis has been exploited by the Europhob constituency to fuel their nationalist campaign.

Indeed, it is the very same people who blame refugees for threatening the EU who do actually ruin the EU. The enemy of the EU does not come from the outside, it is an enemy within.
(see Eurobarometer 2015 for latest survey results).

Postscript: The role of Russia as sponsor of the right and left wing Europhob parties with the aim to weaken the EU also merits more attention (see, for example, this Guardian article).

17 January 2016

The new politics of preventing and criminalising volunteers

The message below about developments in Greece was circulated by email. Already last year, on the Balkans volunteers were successively pushed out of many sites. It demonstrates the making of a politics of preventing volunteers assisting migrants and refugees in distress and a new level of conflict between state and civil society. It seems state agencies aim to replace humanitarian support structures with control structures. So far, volunteers were stepping in (a) where states and international organisations failed and (b) diminished the suffering and human costs but should not be mistaken for (c) facilitating migration because (e) people migrate to escape emergencies. Whilst regulating assistance might be reasonable preventing assistance is not, notably where states are unable or unwillig to provide adequate humanitarian assistance. Under such conditions preventing the volunteers will inevitably increase the suffering and risks of migrants and refugees but will not diminish the need to flee war or poverty.

Report (14.1.16) from Chios, which characteristically shows how the situation has exacerbated during the last week:

  • The deployment of FRONTEX has begun without any information by the Greek govmt. towards the local politicians or the local population.
  • FRONTEX is now present everywhere. Patrols are executed in a permanent way at the spots where the refugee boats land. The FRONTEX policemen sit together with their Greek colleagues in the Greek police cars.
  • The coast guard – most likely by order of FRONTEX – doesn't allow anymore fisher boats rented by helping organisations, to leave the harbour and help refugees in the rubber boats to reach the coast.
  • The Greek police together with the FRONTEX cops ask for the ID cards of all helpers at the beaches on the pretext to prevent robbing of the refugees, plundering the boats or the stealing of the outboard engines.
  • Today (14 January) some custom officers went to a small harbour to control the boxes with clothes etc. which are sent by citizens to the organizations and groups that provide the first aid to the arriving refugees.
  • The Spanish volunteer who took pictures of the Dutch FRONTEX boat in the harbour and was arrested, will probably be charged for "spying".
  • The two Swiss volunteers who where caught with some hashish were sentenced to 8 month prison on bail each.
  • It seems that the situation has worsened also on the Turkish coast. Patrol boats are all day long present on the straight between Turkey and Chios so that no refugee boat can pass. Even though the weather today (14.01.) was very good and the sea quiet no refugee boat come until late in the evening.

Postscript (17 January): The Dodecanese prefecture decided to check every NGO acting on the Southern Aegean islands as well as all the doctors; they would have to provide proof that they are doctors and get a relevant certificate (from Network for the Social Support to Refugees and Migrants, Network for the Political and Social Rights"