Migrants’ Rights Network: Walls and borders

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Alan Anstead

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are walls and tighter border controls the answer to the big questions on immigration? Do they achieve what their advocates set out to do? Or should the world aim to return to a time when less xenophobia and more trust in people was the order of the day?

Soon after his inauguration President, Donald Trump signed orders to start building a wall between Mexico and USA. There is an existing fence along most of the 2,000 mile border with some 17,000 US Border Protection officers patrolling it. But is as much the anti-migrant, xenophobic attitude and intentions that led to this presidential order as the physical barrier itself. A brief history of border and city wall building does not provide comfortable bed-fellows or successful examples for the president.

Not new

Walls to keep people out (or in) are not new. In AD 122 Roman Emperor Hadrian started to build a wall between England and Scotland to keep the Scottish Picts and Ancient Britons out. There never was a real threat from them.

In 1940 Nazi Germany built a wall around part of Warsaw in Poland to keep Jews inside the ghetto, many to be exterminated in the Genocide. The ghetto was levelled in uprisings in1943. After the Second World War the Berlin Wall was built by communist leaders to stop East Berliners in the communist controlled half of the city crossing to West Berlin. Berliners from both sides tore it down in 1989.

Dialogue

In 1969 a fence was built between the Protestant and Catholic parts of Belfast in Northern Ireland to maintain peace. It didn’t work. Much more effective was dialogue between the different parties to find a peaceful solution.

More recently, walls have been built by mayors in Czech, Slovak and Romanian towns to keep Roma out of the ‘white’ parts of the conurbation. These have been dismantled soon after construction following NGO protests.

In many people’s minds, very stringent immigration controls act as virtual walls. ‘Fortress Europe’ is a term used by many to describe the sheer difficulty for a non-EEA/EU national in entering the European Union. The UK has also significantly increased the red tape and for many limited the possibility, for someone from a non-EU state entering the country.

No pre-WWI borders

It was not always so. Before the First World War there were no walls or fences (discounting Hadrian’s Wall and the Great Wall of China). In fact, believe it or not, there were no borders. No visas. No passport controls.

The Austrian author and playwright Stefan Zweig made this observation: “Before 1914 the earth belonged to the entire human race. Everyone could go where he wanted and stay there as long as he liked. No permits or visas were necessary, and I am always enchanted by the amazement of young people when I tell them that before 1914 I travelled to India and America without a passport.”

He goes on: “Indeed, I had never set eyes on a passport. You boarded your means of transport and got off it again, without asking or being asked any questions; you didn’t have to fill in a single one of the hundred forms required today. No permits, no visas, nothing to give you trouble; the borders that today, thanks to the pathological distrust felt by everyone for everyone else, are a tangled fence of red tape were then nothing but symbolic lines on the map, and you crossed them as unthinkingly as you can cross the meridian in Greenwich.”

Xenophobia

And: “It was not until after the war that National Socialism began destroying the world, and the first visible symptom of that intellectual epidemic of the present century was xenophobia—hatred or at least fear of foreigners. People were defending themselves against foreigners everywhere; they were kept out of everywhere. All the humiliations previously devised solely for criminals were now inflicted on every traveller before and during a journey.

He concludes: “You had to be photographed from right and left, in profile and full face, hair cut short enough to show your ears; you had to have fingerprints taken—first just your thumbs, then all ten digits; you had to be able to show certificates—of general health and inoculations—papers issued by the police certifying that you had no criminal record; you had to be able to produce documentary proof of recommendations and invitations, with addresses of relatives; you had to have other documents guaranteeing that you were of good moral and financial repute; you had to fill in and sign forms in triplicate or quadruplicate, and if just one of this great stack of pieces of paper was missing you were done for.”

Can we return to the times of less xenophobia and more trust in people? It would take very strong political will and leadership.

It is possible if we all forget ‘wall mentality.’

Read original posting here.

This piece was reprinted by Migrant Tales with permission.

Facebook: “We won’t send you back to a hell called Iraq,” writes Kerstin Ögård

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Hi guys

I just had this thought that to do something about our “murderer-government” (:D :D) we really need you Iraqi people to not work against each other. There is so much suspicion and lies and mistrust…some people working together with OUR government(??), giving them information just so people save their own asses—guys, this country does not work that way! 🙂 ( I understand everybody just do what you need to do, to stay safe..I am not judging, I understand this…)

Here in Finland we had a civil war in 1918. The Reds, the peasants and poor people, were fighting the Whites, the upper class. The Whites won, but it did change the country; the Reds got better situation, got to own their own land, after the civil war.  It left deep wounds though. And these wounds finally only healed during the Second World War, when Finnish people had to unite to fight the Russians. My father, who is born 1938, still calls the Civil War of 1918 ”a revolutionary war.” I told him it was not a revolutionary war but but a civil war, brother against brother.

Life in Finland is so different from Iraq…here we feel safe. I don’t have to mistrust people, I don’t have to check for suspicious cars overtaking me on the motorway, I don’t have to be afraid that someone will contact me just to milk me information that they want to misuse…I can trust people and feel safe.

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Dear Sweden, don’t play ball with the Sweden Democrats – Finland is the best example of the disaster that awaits you

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Dear Sweden, 

In all of the Nordic region we have seen far-right populist parties rise in this century with a hostile even vicious anti-immigration and anti-cultural diversity agenda. Of all the Nordic countries, you are the only one in the Nordic region where populist anti-immigration parties have not formed directly or indirectly a part of government. 

A poll in November, however, showed a sharp rise of the far-right Sweden Democrats to 21.5% when compared with 12.9% it got in the 2014 parliamentary elections and not trailing too far behind the Social Democratic Party (25.7%) and Moderates (22%).

The Sweden Democrats are the third largest party today in the 349-seat Riksdagen (parliament) with 49 seats (12.9%) in 2014 compared with 20 seats (5.7%) they won in 2010.

In an analysis piece by Expo, an anti-racism and anti-fascism NGO in Sweden, they explained the rise of the Sweden Democrats in 2010 to the Riksdagen in the following words:

“The Sweden Democrats gain from presenting themselves as an alternative to the so-called establishment,” wrote Expo chairman Daniel Poohl. “The bloc politics that has marked the election campaign has turned the Sweden Democrats into a distinct third alternative, an underdog.”

Poohl continues to warn us in 2016 about the Sweden Democrats: “That’s where we come in. This is the white paper [stating that they aren’t a racist party and have no ties to fascism] that the Sweden Democrats would have to do, but will never be able to write. The racism found in the Sweden Democrats isn’t something that belongs to history but is a part of the party’s concept.”

Migrant Tales wrote the following letter to Sweden in june 2015 warning about the perils of playing ball with a populist party that loathes immigrants:

“Today, you, dear friend in Sweden, are the only country that can restore sanity to this part of Europe and effectively challenge this force that is undermining and threatening our Nordic values. We need you to hold out and show leadership, which has been shamefully lacking in the rest of our region.”

 

Read the full story here.

However, it looks like there is a tear in the cordon sanitaire that excluded the Sweden Democrats from Swedish mainstream politics. Anna Kingberg, the head of the Moderates, said that her right-wing conservative party would be ready to negotiate with the Sweden Democrats, according to Politico.

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Inspired by Donald Trump’s racism in USAmerica, Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri stokes the fires of xenophobia

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Argentina has a reputation among some Latin Americans of being the most racist country in the region. The election of President Donald Trump has emboldened politicians like Argentinean President Mauricio Macri to parrot his USAmerican counterpart’s racist worldview. 

Argentina, like Canada, Australia and the United States, is a nation built on immigration. When we speak of immigration, however, we have to stress that we mean white European immigration.

Between 1881 and 1914, over 4.2 million immigrants moved to Argentina from Europe.[1] By 1914, 30.3% (2.358 million) of the country’s total population was foreign born with as many as 49.4% of the inhabitants of the capital Buenos Aires being born elsewhere. [2]

When you ask Argentineans about what happened to the Amerindians, which were wiped out of their lands in the nineteenth century, some of their answers justify genocide. “There were so few of them,” is one response you may hear, which means that they were near-non-existent and therefore it was acceptable to commit genocide.

Few Argentineans know that at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when Argentina was a Spanish colony until 1816, that 38% of the population of about 400,000 people were where whites with 32% being blacks and of mixed black ethnicity. [3]

European immigration during the second half of the nineteenth century and in the following century effectively whitewashed Argentina of other visible ethnicities such as blacks and Amerindians.

While Argentineans proudly claim that they are a tolerant and understanding country because they took in so many immigrants, we must ask to which immigrants and groups were accepted.

Read the full story here.

Racist comments by some white Argentineans reinforce how racism and bigotry are still alive and kicking in the country. “White” in Argentina means anyone who has a European background. Those of mixed mestizo ethnicity, Europeans mixed with Amerindians, are called disrespectfully cabecita negra, or little black head.

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If YLE has exposed discrimination against dual nationals in the defense forces why don’t they call it institutional racism?

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Why isn’t the national media or any other NGO in Finland calling out YLE’s scoop about how the defense forces and ministry of defense could be in violation of our constitution and an example of institutional racism?

Why doesn’t the media or anyone else for a fact state clearly that statements by President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, who want to find a way to get around Section 6 or our Constitution by discriminating against dual nationals, isn’t seen as labeling and victimizing whole groups?

Why doesn’t anyone say clearly that much of the debate on dual citizenship is embedded in denial about a social ill like racism in Finland?

It is incredible that during our centenary celebrations of 2017 as an independent country that President Niinistö doesn’t see how his remarks and apparent disdain for dual citizens labels and harms a whole group.

With respect to Sipilä, how many trust him considering that he broke his promise to house asylum seekers in his home in September 2015?

Those attacking and labeling dual nationals in Finland represent power and Finnish exceptionalism. They would care less about minorities like Finnish Russians, even if what they say reinforces discrimination and harms minorities.

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Undermining and attacking dual citizenship rights is a hostile provocation against social equality and cultural diversity in Finland

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The ongoing debate about the perceived threat of dual nationals in Finland and the proximity of municipal elections should raise some serious questions. One of these is why are we having such a discussion now and who is fueling it?

The answer is more than obvious and highlights a segment of society that refuses to see multicultural Finns, migrants and minorities as equal members of society. These are none other than the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* and other parties that are suspicious of cultural diversity in varying degrees, like the Center Party and National Coalition Party.

The proximity of the municipal elections on April 9 is crucial for the PS, which has seen its popularity in the polls plummet, to show to its government partners that it is still has political life in it.

Thursday’s A-studio talked about the threat that dual citizens pose. PS MP Simon Elo revealed with his comments that plans to discriminate against dual nationals and water down their rights is a general political strategy of his anti-immigration populist party to undermine cultural diversity in Finland. See full talk show here.

The debate on dual citizenship in Finland reveals how institutional racism works in this country and how some political parties will stop at nothing to undermine the civil rights of minorities.

YLE News published on January 31 a story where it claimed that the defense forces place restrictions on dual nationals of Finland and Russia.

“Finnish Defense Forces have not been waiting for legislative changes but have adopted their own rules and procedures for dealing with Russian-Finnish dual nationals,” YLE News reported.

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Facebook: Don’t lose hope no matter how wrong the Finnish government is

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Hi people,

I know it is really hard for you now, with forced deportations, and all this bullshit that our stupid government is trying to do at the moment, and trying to hide at the same that they are doing it… I just want you to know that don’t worry.

We now have proof that the government breaks the law (The 1951 Refugee Convention) and that their plan is to try scare Iraqi and Afghan people to leave the country, by forced deportations. The police puts electrical belts on people (illegal?) and refuse to give their names to the deportees, when asked. They also desperately try to hide from the public what they are doing… omg what idiots 😀 (sorry..you should not call someone an idiot.. I am just angry, that’s why, sorry :D) But we have an informed press, and of course, there are about 100 000 or more Finnish people who know you personally and know your stories. We know what is going on (and we are pretty angry about it, especially the sweet old ladies). There’s no way that the authorities can do this unnoticed and there is no way they can hide what they are doing. Finnish people will NOT accept this bullshit. I mean our own government is sending people to their deaths, and tries to cover it up. C’mon don’t be so stupid! You cannot do that in Finland!

Anyway, the racist politicians, who are behind this, also play you guys against each other. The system in Iraq is obviously made so that no one can trust anyone, and some people try to stay safe by trying to please the people in power. There is a network of lies and mistrust and computer hacking, the secret service and bullshit strategies, and all this kind of weird stuff. But guys: Finland doesn’t work like this! For real!

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(Asylum Corner) Reporting on migration: magnifying glass or distorting lens?

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On January 25th, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) brought together a large group of experts and well-known panellists in Brussels to debate the ways to balance the narrative on migration on both sides of the Mediterranean. During the event, which relates to the scope of the EUROMED Migration IV project, Aidan White, director of the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), presented the first report on the study he is currently conducting on behalf of ICMPD about media and migration in the Mediterranean area.

Read original posting  here.

The EUROMED Migration IV project aims to support all EU Member States and all European Neighborhood Instrument (ENI) Southern Partner Countries (SPC) in establishing a comprehensive operational dialogue and cooperation framework, with a focus on strengthening tools and capacities to shape coherent migration and international protection policies. Within this broad set of goals, understanding media dynamics when reporting on migration on both sides of the sea and promoting more truthful and unbiased information on the topic, together represent an ambitious but very much necessary objective for the project.

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