Article by Georg Blokus, Gabriela Siegel and Seema Syeda
Waking up and reading the news about the decision on the Common European Asylum System leaves many progressive organizers, refugee rights activists, and defenders of human rights on the European continent speechless. It leaves even more of those seeking protection at the gates of Fortress Europe at risk of death and border violence.
Scrolling through the tweets of political decision-makers and seeing their pathetic celebration of ‘European solidarity’ raises the question: what is the antonym of solidarity? After all, that is what the perverted ‘solidarity’ being celebrated here represents.
It is a political travesty to hail such an agreement as a ‘historic success’. In reality, the proposed measures hollow out the remnants of the EU’s commitment towards the principle of asylum. Masquerading as a plan to expand the processing of asylum claims at the EU’s external borders, the proposals would in fact further facilitate the mass detention of refugees, the proliferation of prison-like detention centres, and the expansion of the arbitrary and fast-tracked deportation of asylum-seekers to a supposedly ‘safe’ third country they transited through on their way to safety. All of this without any exceptions for families with children. “We have prevented much worse today, and in this respect I am very pleased and very proud that we have succeeded overall with a large majority”, German Minister for Interior Affairs Nancy Faeser assures us in her hopeless but happy statement.
What shred of credibility can the so-called post-War European liberal ‘democratic’ order cling to when the interpretation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Refugee Convention is grotesquely stretched to permit stripping asylum seekers of their right to due process and legal protections? Shall we celebrate the de facto death knell of the right to asylum in the name of European solidarity?
When Donald Trump and his administration locked children in cages at the US-Mexico border, European leaders positioned themselves as a cut above this, and clamoured together to express (partial) outrage. In reality, the transnational collusion of Fortress Europe and the US’s dangerous border policies has only grown, and yesterday shows the results of years of de facto policies normalising the criminalisation of asylum in Europe.
No wonder right-wing leaders and governments across the EU, from Italy to Poland and Austria all the way to Hungary, are applauding – even though Hungary and Poland, for example, voted against this new European consensus – only because of the introduction of ‘solidary’ financial penalties for not accepting refugees entitled to protection.
But for us at European Alternatives and for our friends, allies, and partners from civil society, political education, culture, trade unions, social movements and refugee communities, this should not be the end. After all, we should firstly remember that, long before the summer of 2015, solidarity in Europe has been plagued from the start. Europe’s murderous border policies are the result of continuing colonial structures and racialisation, a centuries old system of exploitation and dehumanizing inequality.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Open borders as reparations for Europe’s responsibility in creating planetary crises can be achieved, and we will continue to fight for them. It is we, the broad transnational movement of migrants and human rights activists, educators and organisers, who know all too well what lived solidarity means. We see this every day, as we fight for everybody’s right to a dignified and just life – beyond the political mockery EU leaders have made over the years of the principles of human rights, particularly in the field of migration policy. We see this living practice of solidarity reflected in sea rescue missions, in progressive municipalities welcoming refugees, in migrant workers’ collectives, in free legal aid NGOs supporting asylum claims and family reunifications, in transnational networks of refugee solidarity, and refugee community centres… beyond the borders of origins, religions and nation states. Without the many who hold up the flag of human rights every day, European solidarity would have long been devoid of any true meaning.
»We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity.«Fred Hampton
Especially now until the end of the year, when the European Parliament is about to enter trilogue negotiations with national governments and the EU Commission about the proposed reform of the ‘Common European Asylum System’, it is time that we overcome our speechlessness and turn our political powerlessness into grassroots power led by the voices of the many refugee organisations and migrant movements. We cannot lose hope – we must revive it with courage, and compel the European Parliament and the EU Commission to immediately stop this reform.
Otherwise, the next European elections in 2024 could be the first elections in which Europeans will face the unenviable task of choosing between the nightmarish subtleties of a vaguely diversified, but nonetheless united right-wing Europe. For this, the most precarious and vulnerable amongst us, particularly refugees, will pay the greatest price – with their dreams, their rights, and in many cases even their lives.
This article was first published in European Alternatives 9 June 2023